When coronavirus-related shutdowns began in March, professionals around the country rushed to create the best home office they possibly could. At the same time, schools around the country also closed their doors. In some areas, parents were told the shutdown would last for two weeks, but doors remained closed and laptops stayed open through the end of the school year.
In 2019, 33.4 million American families included children under age 18, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of those families, 91.3% had at least one parent that was employed, meaning that 30.5 million U.S. families with children under age 18 included at least one working parent.
While these numbers might vary slightly due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear the workforce is full of parents with children under age 18. Many of these parents have never worked from home before, and it’s doubtful that any have had to figure out childcare situations during a global pandemic before.
For parents that are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, rather than be laid off or furloughed, they still face many challenges at home. Working parents across the country are having trouble balancing their responsibilities, being productive professionally, and weighing the pros and cons of reopening U.S. schools in the fall.
How parents are faring while working from home
New research from Microsoft has shown that the unique circumstances of unexpectedly switching to a completely remote workforce has accelerated the blending of work and life, which could actually soften the dynamics of the workplace in the long run.
Microsoft’s research discovered that over half (54%) of parents surveyed reported that it’s been difficult balancing both household and professional demands while working from home. Millennials and Gen Zers felt this burden more than Generation X and Baby Boomer professionals, according to the survey.
Millennials and Gen Z working professionals may find it harder to balance work and life at home due to taking care of young children or having to share workspace with roommates.
Unfortunately, the increased distractions at home could cause parents’ work efficiency to suffer. According to a recent WalletHub study, around 50% of parents with young children at home don’t think they are being more productive at home than they are in the office.
On the other hand, another study, done by JDP, reported that 67% of workers, from a mixed group of those with children and those without, believe that their productivity levels are the same or better while working from home during the pandemic.
Previous research has shown that working from home does lead to increased productivity. In 2015, the Quarterly Journal of Economics published a study that included a trial on 1,000 employees from Chinese travel company Ctrip. The study showed that working from home over nine months lead to a 13% increase in performance, which is almost a whole extra day of output per week.
That being said, the coronavirus pandemic forced a less-than-ideal remote work situation on many. Some companies that offer remote work require that employees have a home office in which they are the only person working, and some even require that their children are in school or daycare.
For many parents, that is far from the case, and some even had to be stand-in teachers while their children navigated remote learning for the first time.
According to a Gallup coronavirus tracking survey of more than 1,200 parents, 56% of parents found remote learning difficult for their families, including 16% of parents who said it was “very difficult.”
While many parents struggled with remote learning, the survey makes it clear that it was harder on working parents than nonworking parents. According to the survey, 60% of working parents said remote learning was difficult for them, compared to only 44% of nonworking parents.
Younger parents reported having more difficulty with remote learning than older parents, likely reflecting the ages of their children. Out of parents aged 18 to 44, 60% found remote learning difficult or very difficult, compared to 49% of parents who were 45-years-old or older.
Will parents working from home see relief when school starts?
Though having children at home makes a work-from-home situation more difficult, parents have mixed thoughts about whether or not they are ready to send their children back to school in the fall. According to the Gallup survey, only 46% of parents said they are very or somewhat nervous about their child getting coronavirus.
Among the parents who reported being nervous about their child getting the virus, 59% want their child to have part-time on-person learning in the fall mixed with some distance learning, while 12% want their child to learn completely at home and 29% prefer they fully go back to school.
Among parents who reported not being nervous about their child getting the virus, 79% want the school to be in-person full time, 18% want the hybrid option, and only 2% prefer full-time distance learning.
Results of the Gallup poll indicate that parents are attempting to balance concerns about their children’s physical health, mental health, and academic progress.
Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.