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28 Feb 2022
by Jennifer Liston Smith

Flexibility and family focus: key benefits for retaining talented working parents

Nearly four in 10 (38%) of working parents will be looking for a new job in the next 12 months, according to a survey of 1,001 people. And a key driver is the rift between what employees want and what many can access.




Bright Horizons’ 2022 Modern Families Index (MFI) highlights three themes for employers:

1) The risk of talent loss;

2) The wish for ongoing flexibility, in time as well as place, of work; and

3) An increased priority placed on family life.

Flexible means more than remote or even hybrid

More than two out of three (69%) want flexibility over their place of work, continuing the appetite for hybrid working, a strong theme of the MFI 2021. Despite this wish, less than half (48%) report they have scope for hybrid working. The MFI report sets out the opportunities for employers to bring working practices into line with these trends at a time when retaining talent is key and when employees are in the midst of the ‘great rethink’.

Interestingly, however, views on work locations have shifted again this year. While hybrid is still very much desired, fewer people than last year want to spend most of their week working remotely. More than one-fifth (22%) now want to work 100% in the office, against 16% in 2021.

Even more than flexibility over work location, the MFI participants wanted flexible hours. Nearly four in five (79%) of these working parents seek flexibility in the hours they work, yet fewer than 4 in 10 (39%) have the opportunity to vary the timing of their work.

Help with care

Employer-sponsored care might have sounded like something for parents of very young children before all our lives went on camera during Covid-19 lockdowns. Now, the ongoing juggle across lifestages for parents and carers is better understood. Even when schools and care settings are fully operating, there is a complex web of care arrangements needed to sustain family life alongside work. This reality has become clearer to all, including employers.

When asked for their requirements in a new employer, more than two-thirds (68%) of all MFI participants looked for support with care. And it’s even higher high among younger workers (86% of 18-34 year olds).

Are employers responding? Encouragingly, two-fifths (40%) of respondents feel their employer is “sympathetic to childcare responsibilities and allows them to work flexibly or offers support to help them manage childcare” (unchanged from 2021).

Parents’ concerned about children’s educational needs

Employers are now more aware that parents carry out a huge daily juggling act, made even more intense during school lockdowns, and that parents have deep worries about the pandemic’s impact on their children’s development.

The findings from this survey bear this out: more than half of parents expressed concerns about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s education (55%), mental health (54%) and social skills (52%).

Better conversations at work

Since Covid-19 – and other social forces – shuffled up working patterns and worker expectations, many people seem to be talking a little more about the work-life equation.

In the 2022 MFI, 61% feel their organisation cares about their work-home balance and 62% feel their manager cares about this. In 2021, these figures were 58% and 59%.

Women, however, are less likely to feel this type of care from their organisation (53%) or manager (55%). The sense of the employer or manager caring also drops markedly by age: 76% of 18-34 year olds feel their manager cares against just 45% of those aged 55+.

What should employers be doing?

Essentially, the MFI data tells two stories: firstly it’s about offering real flexibility, fitted to job roles. This flexibility of time and place needs to be based on choice and trust. If the objectives and deliverables are clear, new ways of working can and should be crafted around delivering role requirements in ways that blend better with life and family.

Secondly, it’s about the way that the best employers have really begun supporting care needs and become employers of choice.

Almost all employers have provided smart technology for new ways of working. Offering help in finding and managing care has been the next natural frontier for the most forward-thinking employers. The findings of the Modern Families Index suggest this might now be on its way to becoming a hygiene factor.

The Author is Jennifer Liston Smith, head of thought leadership, Bright Horizons

Article supplied by Bright Horizons

In partnership with Bright Horizons Work+Family Solutions

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