Navigating the world of employment as the COVID-19 pandemic continues has not been an easy feat for many parents. Adding to that complexity has been the need to safeguard children’s mental health, ensuring that they are not behind in academics and socializing.
Our Silvercloud 2021 Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing Report showed that 30% of employees experienced an increased need for mental health treatment during the pandemic. A significant number of US employees are working parents. According to Ken Cahill, CEO of Silvercloud Health, “Employees feel like they are truly lacking the tools and resources to help them manage their feelings of stress and anxiety. These feelings are compounded further because of things like parental guilt, pandemic fatigue, and the challenge of trying to remain productive in an almost all remote environment.” Working parents have to work through their concerns about their children’s mental health and theirs too.
A McKinsey survey supports this data, demonstrating that parents who work outside the home are experiencing higher levels of burnout – out of 3,007 people surveyed, 862 were employed parents who work outside the home and are parents/caregivers of children 18 and younger.
Contributing Factors to Working Parents’ Burnout
The term burnout describes a special type of work-related stress that involves physical or emotional exhaustion and also a feeling that you are not accomplishing much or are losing your identity.1 For parents, burnout at work can be exacerbated because of their primary responsibility of being caretakers to children 18 and younger.
As a result of the pandemic, some contributing factors to working parents’ burnout included:
1. Higher levels of stress at work
Individuals aged 39–55 years are experiencing the highest stress levels of any age group. So far, our Silvercloud Report documented 32% of employees use their sick days due to pandemic-related stress. This stress has significantly reduced many employees’ productivity, including working parents.
According to McKinsey, factors that increase stress for employed parents include a lack of work-life balance, increased responsibilities both at work and home, concern for their safety regarding COVID-19 infection at work, lack of social support and increased isolation, and ongoing organizational changes affecting their work. About 73% of parents experiencing burnout say that the demands of their work interfere with their private and family life, compared to 38% of parents without burnout.
2. Remote Learning and Lack of Childcare during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Many working parents have been thrown into utter confusion by the frequent school closures kids are experiencing during the pandemic. Mothers have been hit the hardest in the workforce. Nearly 3 million American women left the labor force over the past year, in a country that had women making up more than 50% of the workforce. Many US schools were shut down for many months and recently resumed physical attendance in the latter months of 2021.
And even with the current physical attendance, schools have continued to shut down on some days due to rising COVID cases from the omicron variant that vary from week to week. Parents are often in disarray as they can’t tell when the next school shut down would be.
For parents of younger children, the lack of childcare has decreased their motivation to support their children’s remote learning. One study published in the School Psychology journal by Nyanamba, Liew, and Li showed that parents of younger children had less motivation. However, for all parents, balancing work and school closures have contributed significantly to parents’ burnout.2
3. Concern for Children's Well-being
In a new survey by Bright Horizons, out of 1,001 working parents, 62% of parents worried about their child’s mental health, and 57% worried about their academic catch-up needs. Parents of kids aged 7–10 years were the most concerned.
The McKinsey survey also supports this data with 79% of parents having concerns about their child’s mental health since the pandemic began, and 35% saying they were very or extremely concerned about their child’s mental health.
When children are not doing well socially, emotionally, and academically, it could decrease their parents’ performances at the workplace. They may not be able to juggle motivating their children and performing highly at work.
4. Lack of Employer Support for Mental Health Treatment
Our Silvercloud Report showed that 66% of employees agree or strongly agree their employer could be doing more to help support their well-being and mental health. It does not help that the report also showed that 30% of employees experienced an increased need for mental health treatment in 2021.
Essentially, employers need to transition from offering traditional therapy resources to equipping their employees with digital mental health support. Especially as working parents are now more physically tied to the home front than they were in pre-pandemic times, they need the type of digital support that allows them the flexibility to seek help from the comfort of their homes.
Preventing the Problem of Burnout in Working Parents: Less Traditional Therapy, More Digital Therapy
Employers can gain foresight from various studies on burnout and escalate to preventing the problem before it happens. Employees want more and better support from their employers. Employers who can give their employees the right tools to manage their mental health will prevent burnout and employee turnover.
One big step employers can take to prevent burnout in their workers is to offer more resources to support employees’ mental health. Traditional therapy resources are limited and can’t fully deal with the current mental health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Online therapy is flexible. Employees can have access to mental health services like counseling and interactive mental health and wellness programs. In 2020, Silvercloud Health’s clinical team introduced a program called Challenging Times to help people deal with COVID-19 related issues, including worry, sleep, bereavement, isolation, and work-life balance. These resources are beneficial to reduce pandemic-related stressors in the workplace.
The pandemic has shed light on several problems among employers in the US – the lack of support for employees experiencing stress, lack of tools to help working parents balance work with caregiving responsibilities, and the lack of employee support for mental health treatment.
Employers who understand how work-related stress can increase parental burnout can use this knowledge to their advantage. Mental health challenges directly impact a company’s productivity and bottom line, but if employers implement certain tools to support their workers, these negative outcomes can be avoided.
Silvercloud Health is the world’s leading digital mental health company, enabling employers, providers, and health plans to deliver clinically validated on-demand programs that improve outcomes, increase access and scale while reducing costs. In addition, Silvercloud Health has built health programs with bonus content, including the Challenging Times module specifically designed to support employees (including working parents) as they navigate the current COVID-19 crisis.
Learn more about how Silvercloud Health can support your employees with tools to reduce burnout.
1. Know the signs of job burnout. Mayo Clinic. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642
2. Nyanamba JM, Liew J, Li D. Parental burnout and remote learning at home during the COVID-19 pandemic: Parents’ motivations for involvement. Sch Psychol Wash DC. Published online October 14, 2021. doi:10.1037/spq0000483