Survey suggests COVID-19 could have long-term benefits for family life

Parents forced to work from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic believe the experience could ultimately be a positive one for their family, according to a new report.

A survey by academics at the University of Plymouth showed the lockdown had resulted in more family time, with parents feeling more connected to their children as they were able to achieve a better work-life balance.

Both parents said the reduced travel to and from work, and more opportunities for exercise with their children, were having real benefits for the family as a whole.

They enjoyed being more involved in their children’s education, despite mothers reporting that they often felt levels of stress and guilt at times when they had to work and could not give their children as much attention as they wanted.

Mothers also reported that they were enjoying having home-prepared meals as a family, the increased ease of managing general household chores, less rushing around and the increased involvement of partner.

Both mothers and fathers said they would consider an increased level of working from home after the pandemic and would explore other changes to working practices such as varying hours and wider use of technology.

These findings are among the preliminary results of a survey by Dr Jasmine Kelland, Lecturer in Human Resource Studies and Leadership in the Plymouth Business School.

Over 10 days in April 2020, she surveyed 134 working parents of school-age children asking them how their daily routines had changed as a result of the current lockdown.

Speaking about the current study, she said:

“As a mother-of-three I was really interested in how the pandemic was affecting my family, and whether my experiences were being shared by others. I also wanted to see if any of the patterns being adopted now were believed to be better than before and if it will alter the way people want to work going forward.

“The results showed both mothers and fathers were overwhelmingly positive about spending more time with their families, having less travel time, and doing more exercise. I think the result will be a dramatic rise in requests to work from home and companies who have previously refused flexible working for parents will find it hard to still argue it isn’t possible.”

Dr Kelland has previously looked into how employees can achieve a better work-life balance, with one study showing that fathers can face ‘forfeits’ when applying for part-time employment.

She plans to expand on the current study over the coming months, in particular to see whether those who responded to the survey have made actual changes to their working patterns once the lockdown has been lifted.

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