Returning to the office – what it means for family separation anxiety

New research reveals 46% of parents are worried about missing key moments in their child’s development as routines return to normal post-lockdown.



Man with head in hands leaning on the edge of a cot containing a baby


Whilst maintaining a work-life balance has proved to be a real challenge for most parents, working from home and having the entire family under one roof provided a rare opportunity for many to spend extra time with their loved ones.

As lockdown restrictions slowly lift and the kids return to school, employees are understandably experiencing mixed emotions at the prospect of returning to the office, and the potential to miss being there when the children return from school.

Employees missing loved ones

Whilst all employees may harbour mixed emotions about no longer working alongside their loved ones, new research, which surveyed 1,000 UK employees, reveals that parents are the most likely to bear the emotional brunt of returning to the office.

This research found that nearly half of parents (46%) said that they worry about missing key moments in their child’s development when they return to their normal routine post-lockdown. A further one-third (30%) of parents said that they worry they’ll lose a degree of closeness with their child when they return to their normal routine post-lockdown.

Prior to COVID-19, many parents accepted that they would miss out on certain milestones in their children’s development because society championed the normal 9-5. But spending so much time with their children over the last year has made many parents notice how much they normally miss out on.

dad homeschooling

Education anxiety

This is particular true with dads. The homeschooling that took place during lockdown gave parents a chance to be more hands on with their kids’ education (whether they liked it or not).

Now that the young ones have returned to school and parents are returning to the office, mums and dads are having to let go of this extra means of bonding, proving to be a source of anxiety for many. The research highlights that over one-quarter (26%) of parents are worried that they won’t be able to positively influence their child’s education when they return to their normal routine post-lockdown, with just under a third of dads (28%) being more worried about this than mums.

Separation anxiety and the mental health implications

Similarly, separation anxiety is a common phenomenon amongst parents, particularly those with younger children. One in eight parents admitted to being worried about their mental health suffering when their child returns to their normal post-lockdown routine, with more fathers saying that they’re worried about this in comparison to mothers (1 in 7 men compared to 1 in 10 women).


Some Much-Needed Space

Still, whilst parents may be feeling understandably anxious about the decreased time spent with their loved ones, many also look forward to some much-needed respite after a year spent juggling home-schooling and remote working.

Fifty-seven per cent of parents expressed the need for space from their children after having worked from home during the pandemic.

And the good news is children are resilient. Their reduced interactions with children their own age should not be an additional source of worry or concern. “Even though this is unusual, most kids will come out of this fine because we’re biologically wired to adapt,” says early-childhood development expert Dr. Jack Shonkoff.

So, parents can have peace of mind in knowing that their children should be able to develop and flourish to their full potential despite the impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns. Dads and mums can also find satisfaction in knowing that once they return to the office, much like their children, they’ll finally be able to interact with others who are on the same wavelength.

Read more:

How your workplace can help with your neurodivergent kids

Interview: auto entrepreneur Kamran Saleem on work/life balance and pivoting in the pandemic

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