Parents are less productive in work when they are ashamed about childcare eating into work-time

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The FINANCIAL– Parents who feel shame about childcare responsibilities eating into their work-time are less productive when they are working than those who do not feel ashamed, according to new research by Durham University Business School.

This research, undertaken by Dr Yingli Deng, Assistant Professor at Durham University Business School, alongside a number of colleagues, sought to understand how parents perceived the balance between childcare and work responsibilities, exploring whether they felt shame when prioritising one over the other, and how this might affect their productivity at work.

Dr Deng and her team conducted a number of studies with over 200 working parents to determine their productivity levels, their emotional stability and amount of shame whilst home working.

The results showed that the parents who felt the most shame towards attending to childcare duties in work time, and who had a lower level of emotional stability were more likely to be less productive in their work generally, and spend more time invested in childcare duties.

The researchers state that the decrease in productivity is due to the fact that parents view both work and childcare responsibilities as being in competition with one another. In order to increase effort in one activity they actively decrease effort in another.

“Working parents not only experience pressure to exemplify an “ideal” worker role, but they are also expected to engage in intensive parenting practices to raise successful children,” says Dr Deng. “And although the roles can complement each other, many find achieving this balance challenging, and therefore end up prioritising childcare as it is deemed more important”.

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The researchers state that in today’s remote working world, the lines between professional and personal responsibilities are becoming blurred. More often than not, working parents are struggling to cope with the pressure of juggling the two. To help working parents tackle this problem, Dr Deng suggests that organisations can, and should, be doing more to help them balance both their working role and their parental role too.

“Organisations can train managers to recognise employees’ shame, and work through those vulnerabilities by helping them to identify ways to proactively bounce back from their self-despair without withdrawing from their work roles,” says Dr Deng.

“Not only this, but organisations can also help employees further by giving them more flexibility to attend to their children’s needs, in exchange for gaining more focused and hardworking employees whilst on the job.”

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