New Study of Modern Families and Managers: Working-Parent Burnout Costing Employers

WATERTOWN, Mass., October 7, 2015 — A new study of working parents and their managers released today shows that working parents are burnt out and they're not feeling the love at work, leaving them more likely to quit, be less creative, and less energized about their jobs. Many working moms and dads alike reveal that the combination of work and family responsibilities is causing anxiety and depression and keeping them from doing their best at work. The good news is parents and managers agree on one important thing: the solution to this problem rests in the workplace.

Key findings in this new survey show:

  • 56 percent of working parents aren’t happy at their current job
  • 98 percent of working parents say they’ve experienced burnout
  • Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of working parents feel their employer simply doesn’t care about them
  • 64 percent don’t feel their employer is attentive to the needs of working parents
  • 48 percent of working parents are stressed about managing their health today, an increase from 41 percent in 2014
  • Almost 8-in-10 (77 percent) working parents say burnout has caused them to become depressed or anxious or get sick more often
  • Around 8-in-10 working parents (79 percent) and managers (77 percent) agree a change needs to be made at the office, not at home, to curb burnout.

The study, the second annual Modern Family Index commissioned by Bright Horizons Family Solutions (NYSE:BFAM), explored the challenges working parents have in managing their work and family responsibilities and the impact these challenges have on employers.

Working Parents Are Suffering in Silence

The study found that working mothers and fathers feel it’s extremely important to work for a company that supports the needs of working parents (62 percent) and has a culture that addresses their family responsibilities (53 percent). However, there is a growing disconnect between managers and employees about how working parents are feeling. This may be attributed to the fact that even in 2015, moms and dads alike are reluctant to share their concerns with their employers.

  • 75 percent of working parents say they are unlikely to speak up about their employer being insensitive to their needs as caregivers
  • 77 percent would avoid airing a grievance about not having work-life balance
  • 61 percent don’t feel supported by their employer when it comes to attending a child’s event, like a performance or game

As a result of this silent suffering, managers just don’t see the magnitude of the problem. When asked if they were concerned about working parents.

  • Barely a third (34%) of managers have concerns that working parents struggle to balance work and life
  • Less than a third of managers (30%) worry about whether the working parents they supervise feel their company doesn't care about them.

Dads Increasingly Feeling the Work-Life Struggle

This year’s study continues to show the increasing value dads place on family time, and that being there for their children and family more often supersedes their responsibilities to financially support them. Yet results show that managers seem stuck with the outdated notion of gender roles and fail to understand that work-family balance is no longer just an issue for moms:

  • More than half (52 percent) of dads are stressed about maintaining work-life balance today. This stress is more common than stress around saving for a child’s college education (48 percent) or trying to advance in their job (37 percent). Managers, however, assume dads are mainly hung up on professional and financial stresses, with 72 percent believing that the cost of sending their kids to college and 60 percent saying professional advancement are stressful for working dads.
  • Among working dads, lack of family time (46 percent) was a more likely cause for burnout than not advancing in their job (40 percent), dealing with a difficult project or client (27 percent), or travelling too much for work (20 percent); though only just over one-third (34 percent) of managers think lack of family time would be cause for working-dad burnout.
  • Dads would also be just as likely to quit their job as a result of a lack of work-life balance (16 percent) as not getting promoted (16 percent) and having a change in career goals (15 percent).

Working Parents Are Worth the Investment and Could Be More Creative With Supports

Providing solutions for working parents could help managers retain these employees that they clearly see as valuable. When asked in which areas working parents were stronger than their non-parent counterparts:

  • Nearly half (41 percent) of managers say working parents are better multi-taskers
  • More than a third of managers (34 percent) say working parents are more effective in time management
  • A third of managers (33 percent) say working parents are calmer in a crisis
  • 28 percent say working parents are more financially responsible on the job. 

And with the right supports, working parents could be even more valuable to their employers with increased capacity to be more creative and creative problem solvers. Both working parents (35 percent) and managers (49 percent) agree that having better work-life balance is the number one factor that would help them to be more creative at work. For both groups, improved work-life balance was more popular than working with other people who are creative, having a manager who gives them “free reign” and taking more time off.

“We work with hundreds of employers who are tuned into the challenges faced by working families and who recognize that these employees are also among their most valuable. All employers must consistently look for new ways to ensure that the culture they are cultivating is one that resonates with and is valued by their employees,” said Bright Horizons® CEO David Lissy. “The labor market is tightening. Jobs are expected to outnumber workers by five million by 2020, and competition for top talent will continue to intensify. The success of organizations will in large part lie in the hands of their employees who are working moms and dads. The bottom line is: employers who can earn the hearts and minds of working parents will be ahead of the curve.”

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About the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index

The Modern Family Index is an Internet-based survey conducted by Kelton Global from May 29th to June 10th, 2015. The sample size of 1,016 American respondents, ages 18 and over who work at least part time and have at least one child under age 18 in the home, at the 95 percent confidence level would equate to + or – 3.1 percent margin of error had this been a random sample. The sample size of 524 American respondents, ages 18 and over who work at least part time and are at the manager level or higher, at the 95 percent confidence level would equate to + or – 4.3 percent margin of error had this been a random sample.

*Note: Please refer to the survey as the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index.