Parents spent up to 45 hours a week entertaining their children at the same time as trying to undertake paid work during the 2021 national lockdown, according to new research.

A report by academics at the University of Plymouth found the majority of parents with school age children felt they were better prepared and more organised for the latest round of restrictions than during the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020.

Despite this, most parents said they found this lockdown harder than previous ones with the pressure of home schooling, the time of year, the weather and a real sense of ‘lockdown fatigue’ all offered as explanations.

They also said that, in their opinion, the novelty of being at home more had well and truly gone but highlighted that the increased support from schools and childcare bubbles had been “utterly life-saving”.

The study was led by Dr Jasmine Kelland, Lecturer in Human Resource Studies and Leadership in the Plymouth Business School, alongside colleagues from the University of Liverpool.

They conducted an initial round of research in April 2020, when they surveyed 134 working parents of school-age children and asked them how their daily routines had changed as a result of the first national lockdown.

In February this year, a follow-up survey was undertaken with 84 of the previous participants to see if they had enacted their planned changes and whether any of those practices were here to stay.

The key findings revealed that:

  • the overwhelming majority of parents said they were doing things differently in this lockdown, reporting that they were more organised and “had a greater understanding of requirements”,
  • many parents reported a wider division of household chores giving children more responsibility and “wider encouragement of independence”,
  • parents managed the blended home and work experience by “excessively working well behind contracted hours to survive” or through “longer working hours, into evenings, most nights and some weekends to catch up”,
  • parents were more lax with screen time controls than in previous lockdowns,
  • the vast majority of participants said that they would be making permanent changes to their working arrangements as a consequence of their experiences in the pandemic.

Dr Kelland, who been involved in a number of research projects exploring how employees can achieve a better work-life balance, said:

Jasmine Kelland
Dr Jasmine Kelland, Lecturer in Human Resource Studies and Leadership

“With many children now back at school, it is a good time to reflect on how parents have managed during this latest lockdown. Our findings show that despite having a better appreciation of what to expect, the majority of parents have still found it immensely challenging to cope with the many and varied pressures being placed on them.

“What was perhaps most surprising is that despite spending an additional 45 hours per week entertaining their children, nearly half of the respondents have not made any formal changes to their working hours. The upshot, they say, is a feeling ranging from more stress to total exhaustion with many reporting that they will be exploring the possibility of greater workplace flexibility as our pathway out of the pandemic progresses.”

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