The toll of 2020 on working parents

New research shows the particular challenges of 2020 have taken their toll on working parents.

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Two in five parents had to change their work pattern this year according to new research.

A huge survey of working parents found 40% had to reduce their hours or change their place of work or leave the workforce entirely. Of that 40% around one in three quit work completely and half of them have no plans to return.

Flexible working options

As part of the research working parents were asked to rank the flexible working options that would help them most. The list they came up with looks like this:

  • Flexible schedule (having some control over when they work) (58%)
  • Working from home full-time (48%)
  • Allowing children to be at home during the workday (having a work environment that understands their childcare demands) (31%)
  • Working from home part-time (30%)
  • Freelancing (24%)
  • Alternative schedule (such as 6 am-2 pm or a 4-day workweek) (20%)


The survey also looked at the differences between working dads and working mums’ experience of the 2020 challenges. While 80% of mums said they had primary responsibility for homeschooling just one in three dads said they’d led on their children’s education. Mirroring other research, more mums than dads quit their jobs due to the pressure of juggling work and childcare. One in 10 working dads said they’d left employment for the same reasons. But for dads and mums the figures were the same when it came to productivity. Around half of all parents said they’d maintained or increased their output despite the different pressures they’d faced this year.

Best practice

US website Flexjobs, who commissioned the research, drew up a short best practice guide for companies looking to support employees who are working dads and working mums.

Communicate expectations with your team and let them know about your reality. 

  • Some flexible work conversation starters:
    To talk with your boss or coworkers: I want to share my current reality to give everyone a solid understanding and try to stay ahead of any potential problems.
  • To ask for more flexibility: I’d like to get a good sense of what my flexible work options are right now. The more I’m able to shift my schedule, the better I’ll be able to meet work priorities and stay productive during this time.
  • For the beginning of meetings: As is the case with a lot of you, I’m working from home and caring for my ____ and ___ year old kids. I wanted to give you a heads up that I may get interrupted during our call but I’ll let you know, mute myself, deal with the situation, and jump back in.

Split-shift the workday. If you have a partner who can work at home, split childcare and work shifts with each other. That way, each day you each will have a designated time for work and a designated time for being with your kids.

Develop a focused learning space for your kid(s). For example, use a tri-fold display board to section off their workspace

Secure the fastest internet speed. This is important when there are multiple users at home simultaneously online. Use a plugin connection to the internet when possible

Give yourself a break. This situation is extremely difficult and stressful, and no one will do it perfectly.  Working from home with kids is not what remote work is normally like. Outside of this unusual situation, most remote workers have regular childcare.


Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs said, “For mums, dads, employers, and the workforce at large, these findings offer insights into what it’s really like to juggle parenting and a career, and how flexible work options (or the lack thereof) can impact decision-making.”

“In order to help working parents not only stay in the workforce, but also be productive employees during this challenging time, employers should absolutely consider offering flexible schedules. When executed thoughtfully, giving employees more control over when they’re able to work during the day can help create the critical space they need to meet all their competing demands. The pandemic has really forced companies to see the struggles that working parents and other caregivers routinely face and hopefully has shed light on just how impactful granting remote and flexible work accommodations can be.”.

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