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Employee Engagement

Over 1,300 employees responded to the Work+Family Snapshot survey during February and March, from across 170 of Bright Horizons’ clients and a range of sectors. This research is an important aspect of our commitment to evidence-based practice. Staying up to date with the needs of working families helps us to continue delivering the services and solutions they need.

The respondents have a range of caring responsibilities from childcare to eldercare, including those in the sandwich generation with both. 25% have adult care responsibilities (being   23% eldercare and 3% other adult care, which can include partners, older dependent children or others). There was representation across all regions of the UK, with the largest geographical representation from London (43%), followed by 19% in the South East.

Five Key Insights

Our report uncovers five insights that show key needs for ongoing employee support. They illustrate the changes that were driven by the pandemic and indicate that the blending of work and family life is set to continue. Employers who recognise this and support their employees will attract and retain talent most effectively in the months ahead.

  1. Family-Friendly Employers score higher in key employee metrics​
  2. Care is part of the infrastructure​
  3. Hybrid Working is the popular choice​
  4. After flexibility and care solutions, employees want good managers, policies and advice​
  5. Reset. Rethink. Re-prioritise.

The Snapshot showed a contrast with research carried out earlier in the year. In February 2021, Bright Horizons published our annual Modern Families Index (MFI) spotlight survey results. These reflected findings from over 1,000 randomly-selected working parents across the UK.

One of the aspects tracked in the Modern Families Index is the ease with which working parents and carers can have conversations at work about family matters. This year, among the random UK population sample, 58% agreed they feel confident talking with their employer about family-related issues. Among Bright Horizons’ clients’ employees in this current survey, 76% feel confident.

Additionally, in the general UK population, only 58% of agreed that their organisation cares about their work and home balance. Here in our client employees’ Work+Family Snapshot, 78% agree ‘My organisation cares about my work and home balance’. This striking correlation in the current research, and comparison with the general population, highlights the difference that concrete solutions for work-life balance can make. ​

Four Drivers for Employees

We know from our client partnerships that four drivers often underpin employer programmes for working parents and carers.​

These are:​

  • Productivity​
  • Engagement​
  • Loyalty​
  • Wellbeing​

Even in a year without a pandemic, care arrangements break down and have an impact on wellbeing, productivity and presence or absence.​ Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) experience childcare breakdowns in a typical year. 57% of those say they are affected by 5 days or more in a typical year, with 24% of affected employees saying they have 10+ days of care breakdown in a typical year.​

​Nearly 2/3 (63%) of respondents with adult care responsibilities stated they had days of adult/eldercare care breakdown in a typical year. 42% of client employees who have adult or eldercare breakdowns say they are affected for 5 days or more in a typical year. 17% say they are affected for 10 or more days in a typical year.​

All of this points to the need for back-up care solutions, and there are clear metrics on the value of this. Returning to the drivers listed above, three-quarters or more of respondents who had used back-up care in the last 6 months felt it had a positive impact on Productivity (74%), Engagement (81%), Loyalty (76%), Wellbeing (82%).

Hybrid Working

The strong preference for hybrid working echoes many other studies. 77% of Snapshot respondents expressed a preference for hybrid working, (this was  57% in the earlier,  general population study). Hybrid working, and other forms of flexible working can allow employees to work at times that suit their caregiving demands. Flexible working also finds itself at the top of the employee support wish list.

The top three supports looked for by employees are:​

  • A positive approach to flexible working (90%)
  • Access to emergency care (43%) ​
  • Line managers who are equipped to support work-family balance (42%)​

Interestingly, all these score higher than enhanced parental leave policies. ​If we add in the appreciation for employer-subsidised places for regular care, then care solutions (back-up and ongoing) score 76% overall. Access to advice and coaching together score 19%.​​

Managers need advice and information now more than ever and in a just-in-time way. We’ve recently been busy revamping our Parental Leave Toolkit and Parental Leave Toolkit for Managers to make the date-driven journey through parental leave even more personalised and streamlined. It’s about having what you need when you need it, as everyone is busy and working in new ways. Managers need these tools to engage and support their teams well.​​

Reset, Rethink, Re-prioritise – Greater emphasis on family life

We took the opportunity to ask respondents: ‘Have the pandemic and lockdowns affected your approach or how you view your work-family balance or your career?’

The pandemic has had a clear effect on commitment to family life. The most frequently selected item, ticked by just under half (48%) of client employees, was that family has become a higher priority than before. Both men and women thought this was equally as important, men fractionally more so.​

This may reflect the natural swing towards appreciating the fundamentals of health and closest loved ones during a global pandemic. It could also signal that – although working from home during the absence of schooling has been extremely demanding and challenging – it has also reinforced the wish to be there for family life as a priority. ​Alongside this, both genders remain aligned in career ambition.​

Three Actions for Employers

To conclude our report, we drew out three overall themes from the data. Each action is supported by drivers from the data, pointing to strategic steps to help forward-thinking employers get ahead in the coming months.

  1. Support Practical Care Needs
    2. Develop Flexible Management Capability
    3. Measure and Communicate Impact

You can discover more about the three key actions, and the read the full Work+Family Snapshot 2021 here.

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