Families struggle for work life balance despite changing gender roles 0

Flexible working fatherA new report published today by the charity Working Families and nursery provider Bright Horizons suggests that parents are at greater risk of burn out as they strive for work life balance, with fathers at increasing risk as a result of their changing roles and expectations. The Modern Families Index is an annual study that explores how working families manage their work-life balance. This year’s report claims that nearly half (42 percent) of Generation Y fathers (born after 1980) feel burnt out most or all of the time, compared to just 22 percent of Gen Xers aged 36 to 45 and 17 percent of baby boomers aged over 45. The report claims that a growing number of fathers are now facing the same challenges and life choices most commonly ascribed to mothers. The study found that in half (49 percent) of the 1,000 couples surveyed, both parents were working full time. The figure rose to 78 percent for those in their twenties or thirties.

According to the study the pressure is leading more men to re-evaluate their lives. More than two-fifths (43 percent) of Millennials said they would be willing to take a pay cut to find a better work-life balance, compared with 28 percent of all fathers. However 58 percent claimed they felt unable to ask their employer for flexible working, reduced hours, or limiting the amount of time spent working while away from the office.

The researchers claim that this inability to strike a balance continues to have a detrimental effect on family life. Half of those surveyed said their working life was becoming increasingly stressful and more than a third said this impacted negatively on their family lives. Around a third of all parents said they had taken annual leave or sick leave to cope with juggling family commitments or feeling burnt out.

Denise Priest, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Bright Horizons, said: “The 2016 Modern Families Index shows that millennials are doings things differently at work and at home, and have a strong desire to be involved with their children and families. This is the new generation of parents who are rebooting traditional working and caring patterns, but also challenging embedded notions of engagement and loyalty in the workplace. However, these increased expectations continue to bump up against working commitments, leading to stress and in some cases burnout.”

Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “The sands are shifting – younger parents are more likely to share care than the generations before them. But they’re on shaky ground because working life hasn’t caught up. Long and inflexible hours remain the norm with many parents telling us they work up to ten extra hours a week. If we want children to have the time with parents that they need, and for parents to give their best at work, employers need to tackle unrealistic and unmanageable workloads. Otherwise we’re short-changing families and we’re short-changing the economy.”

Overall, a third of all parents (29%) reported being burnt out often or all the time. 46% of parents said that their working life was becoming increasingly stressful. More than a third (35%) felt that work negatively impacted their family life. Where work increasingly encroaches upon family life, the effects can enter into a negative pattern for working parents and spill back over into the workplace. 35% of parents said they take annual leave to cope and 28% of parents said they would take sick leave to cope.

The study also reveals that the traditional arrangement of a father working full-time and a mother working part-time is no longer the most common working pattern for these families. Almost half of all working families have both parents working full-time, more than ever before.

Other key findings include:

  • There is evidence that people on higher incomes are more likely to work flexibly: nearly 80% of those earning between £50,000 and £70,000 reporting they are able to access flexible working. Only 50 per cent of those earning less than £30,000 did
  • Parents continue to put in extra hours just to get the job done. In some cases an additional ten hours a week– this is almost 74 days a year for someone contracted to work 7 hours per day
  • Women remain more likely than men to consider childcare responsibilities before taking a new job: over 60% of women strongly agree that they would need to do this compared to 36% of men
  • Although all parents prioritise spending time with children when getting home from work, traditional gender roles still persist in the home. Mothers (nearly 45%) are more likely than fathers (just under 25%) to start doing domestic chores straight away.

A full copy of the report and registration for a related webinar can be found here.