“… I’m physically, mentally and emotionally drained. I DON’T want my kid to remember very much from this year at all.”
“I feel torn between meeting my kids social and developmental needs and completing my work to the same level as (I would) in the office.”
In new research, over 750* surveyed parents, primarily Moms (95%) have shared how the pandemic has changed their lives and what they need to get to the other side. They are overwhelmingly working (85%) without childcare (70%) while doing more of everything.
The Desire for Productivity
Most surveyed parents expressed that productivity during Covid is unrealistic. But they are desperate for relief and time to maintain their work. Or search for jobs. And everyone has to manage household, health and family life with less support. So, trying to optimize the precious time they have is unavoidable.
When asked this question, ‘what do you need to be more productive right now?’ surveyed parents were candid.
They Mourn the Loss of Physical & Emotional Space
Many surveyed parents crave the impossible, “more hours in the day,” preferably “alone” somewhere, “quiet.” Most are caring for their children while squeezing in housework and nonstop Zooms, from make-shift workspace.
Even though multi-tasking has become the way most people survive work/life it’s considered bad for our brains. And the pressure of trying complete too many tasks at once, while fielding constant interruptions, is wearing. In the wake of social distance, parents want more unclaimed time. Space. To work, parent, sleep and care for themselves. They also want physical space to detach work from home again and allow their kids to be more free range.
But Childcare is Essential to Reclaim It
Predictably, to make the space, more than a third (34%) asked for affordable childcare provided by nannies, sitters or in daycare centers that practice social distance. Or access to their tribe of extended family, friends and teachers.
“A grandparent or another family friend that could live in our house or very close to us so that childcare is readily available and I can actually focus on work.”
“A nanny who I could rely on for my busy days when I have a heavy Zoom meeting schedule or need to physically go somewhere but feel unsafe bringing my three children (like the grocery store or into the office). The nanny would need to also be someone who I trusted was not exposing themselves to COVID. For example, not someone who was going out to bars at night or living with a lot of people.”
And Most Need Help and Flexibility At Work
The economic climate makes it difficult for people to ask for what they need at work. Many expressed concerns about their job security. While others feel forced to exit the workforce without school or childcare for their kids.
“More realistic expectations of productivity during a crisis.”
“(I need) either a leave from my job or childcare. I cannot continue to both care for my daughter full time and work full time.”
“More paid time off, because my kids need me. I continue to work and their worlds are turned upside down. Yet I am required to put in the same amount of hours and also have to be their at-home teacher at the end of the day.”
Although the overwhelming majority of survey responses to date are from Moms, most surveyed Dads echo the strain. One shared, “I don’t get all my work done for my job because I try to cut back on daycare hours to save money. I need time alone. I need employers to expect FATHERS to have responsibilities at home, not just working mothers!”
Many Seek Better Ways to Engage Their Kids
Access to independent, age-appropriate activities, preferably not on-screen was a common refrain. Kids also feel scared, excited, clingy or restless through the pandemic and need support or attention in new ways:
“(I need) mom-approved, safe, teen activities that focus on meeting the needs of teens with anxiety and depression. (There’s) too much online time.”
“More activities to keep the kids busy. They are used to always being busy.”
Many expressed the desire to support learning and worry their kids have lost academic ground without traditional school:
“The kids to go back to school where their teachers reach them and during which I can work.”
“An ENVIRONMENT for my kids to learn in. Online content and a chromebook with wifi are nothing if the child does not have a peaceful enough PLACE to do schoolwork.”
“Better communication between school and kids without me as a go-between.”
And More Physical Space at Home
Surveyed Moms and Dads have asked for dedicated space. At home or back in an office, that’s more conducive to work/life separation:
“A quiet, dedicated workspace that did not double as the play area.”
“Bigger house and yard. We don’t have enough space, hard to work and have kids occupied, not enough room for swing set, etc., or even just to run around.
“A place to work cut off from the rest of the house; my 2-year-old doesn’t understand that he needs to stay out of the sunroom when I’m working.”
“Going to the office. I need separation and I’m falling behind.”
Almost a third (28%) of participating parents are essential workers. They’ve asked for safer conditions, flexible schedules and better compensation:
“…Not having to buy my own PPE for work.”
“A longer lunch break just to breathe without the mask for a few minutes and some extra time to decompress.”
“Would appreciate hazard pay for my healthcare job or the option to take leave. I feel like I’m putting myself and my family in danger and have no choice or benefit in the matter.”
Are There Hidden Productivity Benefits?
Although constant interruption is maddening, there are benefits to all the context switching when we are not multitasking. Dr. Yael Schonbrun, a Clinical Psychologist and Professor who studies work/life enrichment said, “The shifts we make, from cognitively intense tasks when we’re focused at work, to playful and creative time with our kids, helps us.” When we engage with our kids and are pulled into their worlds, it ultimately helps to make us more creative problem solvers.
The pandemic has exposed how fragile the systems are that most parents rely on to make life and work truly ‘work.’ The vast majority are spending more time on the foundational priorities in the Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs framework, childcare (70%,) children’s activities (68%) and household (75%.) And the extra time is primarily at the expense of self-care (yes that includes sleep) which isn’t good for anybody.
*This is a partial update with the results from the question about productivity from responses March 30th – July 17th, from 764 parents primarily in the US (96%) and primarily women (94%.)
Share your experiences of how life has changed during social distance, it’s quick and the results from this study will be used to advocate better support for parents.
Employers, let us help you transform your workplace into an environment where caregivers thrive. Learn about Allies @ Work.