The pandemic led to the world’s largest remote work experiment. Countless people became unwitting participants in a massive test that looked at whether working from home was feasible and if it was better or worse for productivity.
Before COVID-19, remote work was a buzzword known to startups or freelancers who refused to be tied down to one employer. While more people were doing it at the time, older and more prominent companies refused to allow their employees to bring work to their respective homes or at a cafe — anywhere outside the office.
The Global Work from Home Experiment
However, the virus pushed all companies to adopt this flexible setup. Employees had to work from home to prevent the highly contagious and deadly illness from further spreading.
As a result, many people found out that they did not need to be in an office to complete their tasks. In fact, many of them felt that the work from home setup made them more productive because there were fewer distractions and disturbances. Moreover, everyone got to save money without commutes and takeaway coffees every day.
In the past couple of months, companies have announced that employees will be given more flexible work schedules. Many will have the chance to work from home a couple of times a week or permanently, as long as their roles allow them to not be in the office.
Some people are even willing to take a pay cut if they are given the opportunity to continue working remotely. It has been that great.
However, it did not work for everyone. Some working parents found themselves juggling work and childcare at home. It turns out, being at home does not mean people can seamlessly transition from employee to parent and vice versa. Most of the time, they have to do both, which can decrease productivity.
Work-from-home Employees Need Childcare
In the past year, schools were also closed to protect the children from COVID-19. Children, therefore, were stuck at home with their parents. While some parents found that not having to commute to and from work gave them more time for childcare, others felt challenged by it. It was challenging to work full-time and take care of a toddler at the same time.
When asked, 7.5 percent of all respondents said that childcare will drastically improve their experience of working from home. About 29.4 percent of those living with a child under 18 said that childcare will make performing their professional roles remotely more manageable. The figure grew to 48.2 percent among those who have a child under the age of four.
As schools reopen around the world, working parents get a reprieve. Now that their toddler is going to preschool, they now have the time to concentrate solely on work.
The problem of childcare for working parents is, of course, not new. It existed before COVID-19. It likely will continue to exist after the pandemic.
Before, however, only a small fraction of the population was working from home. Adults who were independent contractors, employed telecommuters, or small business owners were working remotely. Many of them opt for outside childcare.
Employers Should Support Work-from-home Employees
The lack of childcare support for working parents can lead to reduced productivity and resignations. Companies need to improve support for employees who are working from home to make sure that they all are in an environment where they can do their work and retain them in employment.
As of 2020, only one in four employers polled were offering discounts and subsidies for childcare centers, tutoring, and other resources to working parents. An additional 22 percent more stated that they were considering adding it as a perk of the job.
Throughout the pandemic, more companies were also open to flexible working hours. Instead of the usual nine-to-five shift, employees can sign in and sign out any time they can, as long as they deliver their goals for the day.
Many are also allowing employees to have reduced working hours, but most will reduce salaries. Only a tenth of all employers polled provides full pay and benefits to those who spend less time during the day on the job.
Employees who want to have more time for childcare are being instructed to use their paid sick and vacation days as an option, but that is not enough.
Working parents need help with childcare whether they are coming to the office or doing their jobs from home. Employers should provide any support they can give to ensure that employees can be productive.