Juggling Life During the COVID-19 Outbreak: How Parents Working from Home are Feeling About Their Situation and How Employers Can Help

As scores of parents across the United States and elsewhere balance work, childcare and home schooling during this COVID-19 outbreak, the internet has exploded with articles attempting to impart wisdom to weary parents through its “9 Strategies,” or “5 Helpful Tips.” In many of these articles, anecdotal stories of crashed conference calls by screaming toddlers are punctuated with tips on how parents can manage their new situation. But notably absent in many of these articles are what strategies employers are taking to help working parents navigate their new situation. To get a better sense of how working parents are faring and how employers can help, APCO Insight conducted a pulse survey on March 31 of the U.S. general public and singled out parents working from home.

Working parents say it isn’t easy… but they’re getting some support from employers

Not surprisingly, working parents are more likely to describe their work from home experience as challenging than their child free colleagues also working from home (78% vs. 55%). While the situation feels daunting for many parents working from home, employers are generally viewed as being supportive. Roughly nine-in-ten (91%) say that their employer is being supportive of parents balancing work and children and are genuinely concerned about their physical and mental health (77%) during the coronavirus outbreak. Beyond support and concern, 82% of these parents working from home agree that currently their employer is offering increased flexibility. 

The struggle is real and potentially long

As parents are being asked to teach their kids, complete their work and manage a highly anxious global situation at the same time, it’s a clear possibility that employee productivity is going to suffer. With the likelihood of a decline in productivity, some employers are focusing on establishing more realistic work goals. When asked if employers had unrealistic and unreasonable expectations of them, a slim majority of those we spoke to disagree (54%). But, 46% of parents working from home agree that they faced unrealistic expectations from their employer. To make matters worse for these parents, the thought of living like this for the next couple of months feels exhausting: nearly two-thirds (63%) agree that the demands of work and home will be unsustainable in the coming weeks as the outbreak continues. 

What can employers do?

First, employers need to recognize that those working from home with kids won’t be as productive at this time. They’re stressed and balancing two full-time jobs: their actual job and for some their new teaching job. Notably, parents working from home are just as concerned with getting the coronavirus (76%) as they are with having to homeschool their kids (76%).

Second, parents working from home expect their employers to have the right policies in place to help them navigate this stressful situation. This cohort puts high priority on employers providing flexible work schedules (86% important) and ensuring employees have paid time off/sick leave (85% important) during this time.

Third, employers can help working parents by setting realistic expectations to help them navigate their “new normal” life: 84% in our survey believe clear communications on expectations are important to helping them handle this situation. Lastly, the best thing we can all do is to lead with empathy and compassion and remember that we’re all up against something at this moment.

Source: Survey of U.S. adults on March 31, 2020 conducted by APCO Insight included n=190 parents currently working from home, margin of error ±7.08%.

For additional insights, resources and research on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit: /coronavirus/. For more on remote workers, click here.