The Great Return (to real life)

Published: 11/06/2021

The subject of hybrid working and the return to the office has been a hot topic at myTamarin these last few weeks. 

Parents have wanted to know how to organise their childcare in the new normal. Employers have looked for solutions to make sure that everyone is getting the right access back to the workplace.

For our first in-person event of 2021, we gathered progressive employers and thought-leaders for breakfast - to discuss how to make the great return work.

Top of mind for all of us were the following topics:

  • Stable and permanent childcare options
  • Hybrid working
  • Cost of childcare

The pandemic has revolutionised the workplace. We’ve shown that we can work from home, but what does that mean in reality? Have workplace cultures and routines changed?

Let’s break it down: the problem is, that even with flexibility we (parents and carers) feel guilty. So much so that one of our guests admitted to working more hours than her full time colleagues. She’s effective as a home worker but even more so as a part time colleague. It doesn’t seem that we are catching much of a break with flexibility. 

Our breakfast guests recognised that productivity has gone down - backing up our research findings that 70% of parents would like to go back to the office, in some shape or form. Because being at home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, when you’re a parent.

Stable, permanent childcare is the way forward. 

If we need to be flexible in our approach to work, any parent knows that means having childcare covered from Monday ‘til Friday, during office hours. Add in the travel that you’ll be doing again, sometime soon, and you’re back to full time childcare if your children are young. 

Because working from home doesn’t mean not having any childcare responsibilities. It means flexing them to fit the new normal. One of our guests described how her workplace is helping employees buy office equipment to help them work from home.

Maybe companies should be offering to help with permanent childcare, too?

Should employers help employees plan and pay for a new childcare set up, to match the new model of working?

And then we got to the money. Last June, the OECD published numbers showing that the UK is in the top two countries of expensive childcare. So that’s why your wallet is in constant pain!

Luckily no one who came to our breakfast suffered from that British thing of being embarrassed talking about money. But maybe we’ve all been overlooking something.

At the end of the day, a guest remarked, "if the Government is measuring employers on the gender pay gap then surely the most obvious barrier to women returning to work is childcare costs." Is it time for corporates to start lobbying Westminster to look at the cost of childcare?

Active campaigns are a good benchmark: the current campaign to petition the Government to review childcare costs took one week to get to 100,000 signatures. What about tax? The system is not set up to be tax efficient at all. 

Let's change the narrative around and the shared cost of childcare between parents. So often, we have heard mothers say that they ‘can’t afford to go back to work.’ If parental leave is shared, a guest referred to research that showed that the father is more engaged with the childcare. Maybe that will help us to think of childcare as a shared cost. After all, research shows that everyone benefits when Mum goes back to work.

Tell us, how are you changing your childcare arrangements? What about your workplace, how are things changing? And what on earth can we do to improve the cost of childcare?

If you'd like to learn more about how myTamarin can support working parents and their employers, click here

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