Kirstie Axtens: True flexibility is essential for carers’ work-life balance

Working Families published the 2017 Modern Families Index in January. This found that one in five parents and carers who are working full time are putting in five extra weeks a year, the equivalent of their annual holiday allowance, in unpaid work. They are stressed and burnt out. 

Disappointingly, over 40% of working parents and carers we spoke to have felt the need to bend the truth to their employer about family life conflicting with work. Nearly half would not feel confident talking to their employer about placing boundaries around work. Unsurprisingly, over a third feel resentful toward their employer about their work-life balance.

If this is how they are feeling, how can they best be supported in the workplace, not least so they are motivated and engaged? It is vital that employers create a ‘safe’ environment where parents and carers feel confident talking about work-life issues without worrying that it will create a negative impression.

Viable options for flexible working are key. We must move beyond flexibility as ‘exceptional’, an unwelcome imposition that hinders getting the job done. A healthy dose of realism when it comes to what can be done in the hours available is crucial. Managers should ensure work is designed in a way that helps both employers and employees find a good work-life fit. 

Kirstie Axtens is head of employer services at Working Families