Dads are now more worried than mothers about how working from home will impact their careers

Father working with son on his lap
As fathers took on more parental responsibilities during the pandemic, their parenthood penalty fears have risen.
MoMo Productions—Getty Images

Much has been written about the benefits of working from home for parents.

The flexible and home-based nature of remote working essentially enables parents to better juggle child rearing with their busy schedules and spend more time with their little ones. 

But while saving cash on the double money drain of childcare and commuting, remote-working parents may be suffering in other ways.

In its ninth-annual Modern Family Index (MFI), Bright Horizons surveyed over 2,000 adults who are employed with children under 18 to reveal the current mindset of working parents.

This year’s research highlights that although remote and hybrid working is offering parents autonomy and freedom, it has a cost: unprecedented isolation and career fears.

In fact, 41% of parents only talk to their household, go for days without going outside and feel isolated when they work from home.

What’s more, younger parents who came into parenthood during the pandemic are finding it especially difficult to leave isolation behind. According to the research, 31% of Gen X and Baby Boomer parents are likely to go without speaking to anyone beyond their household, but this rises to almost half of Gen Z and Millennial parents. 

Beyond isolation worries, however, Bright Horizons’ research reveals a startling jump in another fear among parents—especially fathers: that working from home will negatively impact their careers.

Dads have career fears too 

Despite being statistically less likely to feel the penalty of parenthood on their careers, dads are still worried about exactly that.

In fact, according to this year’s MFI, fathers were more likely than mothers to worry about how parenting will affect them professionally. 

While 27% of the mothers surveyed said they were concerned about the negative effect of remote working on their careers when they choose to work from home, this percentage jumped to 43% of hybrid working dads.  

Meanwhile, 44% of dads admitted to being afraid to take advantage of their workplaces’ work-life balance benefits as they believe it will be detrimental to their appraisal, compared to 36% of hybrid-working mothers.  

In comparison, Bright Horizons’ 2019 MFI revealed that only around 8% of fathers worried that flexible working would impact their careers and make them look less committed in the workplace, with a similar percentage for women. 

The hike in fathers’ career fears could be explained by the increase in fathers taking on parental responsibilities during the pandemic. 

Although mothers indeed handled a disproportionate share of caregiving during the pandemic, the substantial extra time working dads put in with their children may have prompted many for the first time to consider the parenthood penalty.

Working from home does not negate the need for childcare

Despite feeling lonely and stumped in their careers, working parents aren’t speaking up—and for good reason. 

They fear that by raising their concerns about working from home, they’ll be asked to return to the office full-time and risk losing remote working’s many benefits—like making the school run on time.

Instead, here’s what working parents want from their employers, but are too scared to ask for: More help with childcare, whether they are working in the office or at home. 

For over a third of the parents surveyed, this means emergency childcare benefits, an on-site crèche and even insurance for caregiving-related expenses. 

If the wellbeing of working parents isn’t enough to convince employers to start evaluating their childcare benefits, they might note that lost productivity is the cost that businesses pay for the lack of support available: Half of the parents surveyed said that their productivity suffers when they are stressed about child care, and 77% feel that having child care support is important to how productively they work.

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