As part of our research on the impact of the coronavirus crisis on education, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies recently polled 500 schoolteachers and 1,000 parents of school-aged children in England and Wales. In this article, which is part of a series, we consider how remote working is perceived by working parents, building on our previous findings that work from home has consistently been viewed favourably by large segments of the British public.
Our polling has consistently found that working parents are just as likely to be working from home as the overall working British public: 61% of working parents in England and Wales in our parents poll say they are currently working from home. This number is similar to our figures for the working public in Great Britain and for our sub-sample of parents in our GB polls.
Nearly half (48%) of parents who say they have an actively employed or self-employed partner (i.e. not furloughed or unemployed) say that their partner is currently working from home. Interestingly, the majority (62%) of parents who are themselves working from home and who have a working partner say their partner is also working from home, while the majority (65%) of working parents who are not working from home and who have a working partner say their partner is also not working from home either. These figures suggest that, in most households with two actively working parents (not including those furloughed or looking for work), either both parents are working from home and can oversee their children’s remote education, or neither are.
Parents have consistently been more likely than the general public to say that working from home has been more productive than working from the office (or their usual working location). In our parents poll, 57% of parents in England & Wales who are working from home say working from home has been more productive than working in an office or other location.
There is a slight variation between the genders. Across Great Britain, women are slightly more likely to say they have been more productive working from home than men. However, mothers who have been working from home are less likely to say they have been more productive than fathers who have been working from home. Whereas 62% of fathers who have been working from home say they have been more productive, this figure is only 51% for mothers. Indeed, a quarter of mothers (25%) say they have been less productive while working from home.
Despite the greater childcare needs associated with younger children, parents of younger children are just as likely to say they have been more productive working from home as parents of older, more independent children.
For most parents who are currently working from home, a key challenge is that their children are also receiving remote schooling at home, meaning that parents must juggle their work and childcare responsibilities simultaneously. A majority (53%) of parents with children who have been receiving remote schooling still say they have been more productive working from home than they are when working at the office. However, this number is significantly fewer than parents with children are currently attending school in person (71%), and a quarter (24%) of those with children attending school at home are finding it at least somewhat less productive than usual. Indeed, in August last year, we found, among the working from home population, those with children were more likely to report intending to return to the office in September.
Educational disruption has placed extra demands on parents, yet the flexibility associated with remote working has allowed working parents to remain productive—or at least this is how the parents themselves perceive the situation. New research has shown that British, American, and Canadian workers have spent an average extra two hours a day logged into their computers now that they are working at home, which may demonstrate how working patterns have adapted to allow for childcare or home-schooling, therefore giving workers more freedom to schedule their day but potentially also resulting in longer working days, or a less clear separation between work and family life. While this change may not prove sustainable in the long run, it appears currently popular.