Dane Hardie, Director of Childcare and Strategy at Pebble, tells us how childcare is changing in the new work world.
Flexible working isn’t going anywhere, regardless of companies who are pushing for more office days and less flexible working. Ultimately, the pandemic has changed the way that we work forever. And this is a good thing.
During the pandemic, our work and family lives became more intertwined than ever before, and very quickly the benefits of working flexibly around childcare instead of putting work and childcare in separate boxes became apparent.
One hugely positive outcome was for fathers and increased family time. The Fatherhood Institute report ‘Lockdown fathers the untold story’ revealed that during the pandemic 78% of dads spent more time with their children, and as a result their relationships with their children were transformed, with the knock-on effects of feeling closer to their children and understanding them better.
This lead to 67% of dads feeling they were able to do more shared developmental activities, leading more than half feeling more confident to support their children’s learning.
Today, more companies work flexibly than ever before. In fact, nine in 10 people want to work flexibly, and more than half would quit their role if it didn’t offer flexible working.
These numbers tell us that the way that we approach work and the gender balance in terms of caregiving is starting to shift, and where the manic juggle of working and parenting is concerned this is a good thing. In fact, the average daily number of minutes spent on unpaid childcare by working fathers who live with their children full-time has increased by 18% from before to after the pandemic.
In addition to the increase in flexible working, we are also seeing a reduction in the use of childcare settings for parents. In 2021, a government survey found that formal childcare was used by just over two in five (44%) children, equating to 4.5 million children which is a fall from 52% in 2018. Recent Coram data has gone one step further, releasing the finding that nursery places for parents working full-time has dropped by 11%. This doesn’t mean that childcare is becoming any less important, it’s just that parents’ approach to childcare is becoming more flexible and less fixed.
The reality is that we are living in financially hard times, in fact the Bank of England delivered the depressing notion just last month that Brits now need to ‘expect to be poorer’ due to the cost of living crisis. Parents still need to earn money if they can, and so childcare is becoming more fragmented and flexible as parents make things work. Childcare is the reason that 47% of parents are working flexibly today, so it make sense that flexibility in childcare is the other side of the coin.
Since 2021 at Pebble we have been working with to help to flex the conversation between guardians and childcare settings. By introducing flexible childcare booking, childrens’ guardians can now book ad hoc childcare through the Pebble platform without needing to email or call their local nursery or childminder to ask, and they can also book local activities without needing to spend hours scrolling local FB groups to find things to do. What this means is that parents are able to dial up or dial down their childcare needs around work and life and that on the flip side childcare settings and activity providers are able to max out on their capacity – which they need to do in order to be profitable.
With the childcare sector struggling to make ends meet, and parents needing childcare to be able to work, but needing to not just work to pay for childcare, there’s a real opportunity for innovation in this space to help to bridge the gap, which could edge us closer to a more level playing parenting and working balance once and for all.