Moms, dads distracted at work

Working parents worry about what kids are doing after school

Millions of working parents are less productive at work due to concerns about what their children are doing in the after-school hours, according to a new study.

Though a majority of working parents are faring well, the report After-School Worries: Tough on Parents, Bad for Business, by New York City-based research and advisory group Catalyst, finds that about one-third of the labour force, both men and women, is negatively affected by concern about what their children are doing after school.

This concern affects all working parents, regardless of gender, race and position, so reducing this worry is a win-win proposition, said Ilene Lang, president of Catalyst.

"Businesses can increase productivity and retention in today’s round-the-clock work environment by cultivating an agile, results-focused workplace, where work and life responsibilities aren’t mutually exclusive," she said.

The study indicates that about 2.5 million working parents in the United States are overly stressed by this worry about their children and are likely to bring their concerns to the workplace. These concerns are worse for parents who have more responsibility for child care in the household, who work longer hours, and whose children are older (grades 6 to 12) or spend more time unsupervised.

A survey of 1,755 employed parents (44.7 per cent fathers, 55.3 per cent mothers) who work at one of three Fortune 100 companies, found companies can do several things to alleviate this concern and its effects at work, including allowing flexibility to arrive at work later, leave work earlier, or take off part of a workday when necessary.

Research shows, however, that even those in leadership positions feel that using flexible work arrangements could jeopardize their careers.

Catalyst recommends that working parents better educate themselves about current or prospective employers’ policies, such as inquire as to whether a company offers supports like the ability to telecommute on a regular basis, subsidies for after-school care, and bankable hours, among others.

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