Throughout different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia has been subject to a series of lockdowns. Some employees have had no choice but to work from home with their kids who have been remote learning. The longest stretch of lockdown ended by November 2021 for cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, and, in early 2022, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ruled out it happening again —at least as far as we know now.
Back in October 2021, Capterra surveyed 302 employees who had been working from home with their kids for a minimum of one month or longer during the pandemic. We want to know how employers might support parents working from home and how companies have adapted their expectations of staff in a time of crisis. Have tools such as remote work software helped?
Most parents working from home with kids are married or in a long-term relationship
During the lockdowns, it wasn’t just employees who had to adapt to remote working. As schools were closed, children started to take their lessons online through the use of virtual classroom software. But parents suddenly had to juggle work and homeschooling their children to ensure their kids were supervised and engaged in their studies.
83% of the parents we spoke to were married or in a long-term relationship and had children at the time of taking Capterra’s survey. It may be easier for couples to keep their kids on track with schoolwork as they can co-parent and support one another.
122 men and 180 women responded to Capterra’s survey with 7% of male respondents who are a ‘single parent’ in comparison to double that of women (14%). A working parent who is alone during the pandemic may find the situation overwhelming. This may be due to social isolation from other adults in their network or in coping with a child’s difficult behaviour, for example.
When in lockdown, a total of 46% of parents said that they were in fact ‘alone, juggling both work and homeschooling’ when looking after their child. Within this group, 51% were women and 39% were men, which highlights that there are perhaps more single mums under the strain of the pandemic.
51% of people said they were actively looking after their child together with their partner when working from home. Only 2% of respondents had help with childcare from the kid’s grandparents, whilst 1% had a tutor or nanny.
Initial concerns about working from home with kids
The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way in which people work. A previous survey by Capterra highlights that, as of November 2020, 64% of employees working at small to medium-sized businesses are working remotely full-time or part-time. As many employees shifted to teleworking it initially caused worry amongst staff —particularly those with children.
60% of the parents we spoke to said that they expressed concerns to their manager about working from home. This means that 40% of employees kept their worries quiet, which could be for a number of reasons, such as a fear of speaking up or perhaps not wanting to challenge their boss.
When we asked respondents if they came up with any suggestions as to how their company could support working parents, a combination of 61% of people said yes. In this group, 31% of employees said ‘yes, the suggestions were implemented’ whilst 30% said ‘yes, but they weren’t implemented.’
The main concerns parents initially had about working from home with their children and how it might impact their job were:
- Too many interruptions and distractions (60%)
- Missing out on bonding with colleagues (42%)
- Not being able to keep up-to-date with daily tasks (39%)
- Not hitting a promotion (25%)
- Not being given new or extra tasks by the manager (23%)
What are the benefits of working from home with kids?
Parents who were left working from home with their family during a lockdown did note the advantages of the situation. 81% of survey respondents said that they found it positive to spend more time with their children. This was followed by working flexible hours (58%), meaning employees may start and finish their workday as they choose. 55% of people noted ‘less time and money spent on commuting’ as the third most popular reason to work from home.
The value of time seems to be a common theme with the top three reasons mentioned. Not having to travel to the office and back means employees have more time in the morning and afternoon to spend with family and to get tasks done. Flexible scheduling enables parents to better manage and balance their work and parenting duties.
90% of parents feel supported by their company
Even though there were initial concerns about working from home with kids during the pandemic, it seems that most parents (90%) do feel supported by their company. Within this group, 38% of people said they feel ‘fully supported’ whilst 52% are ‘somewhat supported.’
We asked the group of people who said they were currently being supported by their company to explain how. 72% said that their employer allows for a ‘flexible work schedule’ whilst 36% said that their boss ‘normalises children in Zoom meetings.’ 28% of parents said that their employer allows them to spend a few hours during the workday to help their child without having to make up the time. This may be to check that their kids are studying or to take them outside for exercise.
Capterra then asked all survey participants, including those who said they felt unsupported or were not sure, what they would like their employer to do to support them. Over half of all people (54%) in the survey again cited a ‘flexible schedule’ as the most common answer.
Working parents can often be pulled in all directions and having flexibility with their work hours may help them to strategically prioritise their time. Having an increased feeling of control over their schedule and workload may also help with productivity at work.
Other actions that survey respondents would like their employer to take include:
- Provide child backup care (26%)
- Employee support group for parents (24%)
- Send home crafts and activity kits for the kids (24%)
Challenges parents faced when working from home with kids
When it came to the challenges parents themselves were facing, the common answers were the ‘emotional challenges’ (for example, feeling guilty for not doing much of their own work or schoolwork with their child, or dealing with their child’s mood swings) (58%) and ‘too many distractions’ (58%).
19% of parents surveyed by Capterra admit that digital miscommunication was a challenge. This could be because of not receiving emails or invitations to meetings, or not conveying themselves as clearly via online platforms instead of face-to-face conversations.
Remote work software may help employees stay efficient in their roles outside of the office environment, particularly when working from home. The tools should make it easier for team members to stay in communication with each other.
For employees concerned about time management and organising projects, workflow management software can help them to coordinate and monitor their daily tasks. Similarly, employee engagement software can help with performance and goal management. The tools may also keep staff aware of the corporate culture so that they remain invested in the company.
Internal communications software may improve employee alignment and trust in the organisation. It can also be used to give employees a voice by collecting feedback from across the business. Using an internal communications app means that everyone in the company can be reached.
The importance of employee support
We asked all respondents how the supportive measures they selected previously in the survey would impact their job performance if some or all of them were implemented by their manager. 57% of workers said that they would feel more valued by their company. 51% said they would feel more motivated and 43% of people said they could better manage their time.
Without a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic has encouraged businesses to adopt more of a supportive work culture, which is vital for employee motivation and morale. This sentiment is echoed in Capterra’s survey, as 70% of respondents said that they ‘need support with work and home life to continue after the pandemic’ too.
- Work from home in Australia has proven to be challenging for parents to adapt to during the pandemic, especially single parents.
- The majority of Australians surveyed by Capterra feel like they have had support from their employer when working from home with their kids who are remote learning.
- One of the biggest benefits of working from home is time management.
- The best way a company can support working parents is by allowing a flexible work schedule.
- Remote software tools have enabled employees to efficiently coordinate and manage their workflow tasks and stay engaged in company culture.
To collect data for this report, we conducted an online survey in October 2021. Of the total respondents, we were able to identify 302 Australian respondents that fit within our criteria:
- Australian resident
- Parent who is or who has been working from home during the pandemic for a minimum of one month or longer
- Parent whose child(ren) are/were remote learning during one point at least of the COVID-19 crisis.