A study has been published JAMA Network Open Describes the impact of telework on parents’ general and mental health and parenting stress during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Study: Teleworking, parenting stress and the health of mothers and fathers. Image credit: Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock.com
Telework refers to a flexible work situation that enables employees to pursue their official work from an approved alternative workplace, such as a home or telework center. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic pandemic-related restrictions on movement and physical proximity have led to a significant increase in teleworking arrangements.
Evidence indicates that teleworking arrangements have many benefits, including reduced commuting time, flexible working hours, better work-life balance and higher productivity.
However, such measures lengthen work hours, intensify work stress, and interfere with work-life balance, which can negatively affect workers’ overall physical and mental health.
As a unique employee subgroup, parents often face difficulties in balancing work and personal life. In the literature, insufficient data are available to describe the impact of teleworking on the overall health of parents.
Some studies have indicated that teleworking increases stress levels in fathers and decreases happiness in mothers.
In this study, scientists investigated the link between telework during the COVID-19 pandemic and parents’ general health, mental health, and parenting stress.
This cross-sectional survey was conducted between May and July 2022, involving all 77 neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois, a socio-demographically diverse urban center.
1,060 adult parents with one or more children living in the household responded to the survey. Of all respondents, 825 were currently employed and thus included in the final analysis.
The survey included questions about parents’ telework frequency, general health, mental health and parenting stress. In addition, information about demographic characteristics was collected from the respondents. The entire survey was conducted online.
Analysis of demographic characteristics showed that among all working parents, 52.5% were female and 62.5% were using telework facilities. Among teleworking parents, 45% were white, 14.6% were black, and 28.5% were Hispanic.
Among parents working at the site, the majority were black (26%) and Hispanic (41.9%), followed by white (23.8%).
After adjusting for age, sex, race and ethnicity, and income, the analysis found that teleworking parents experienced more parenting stress than parents working on-site. However, teleworking and on-site working parents observed no significant differences in general health status and improved mental health status.
Gender-specific analyzes showed that self-reported parenting stress was significantly higher among teleworking fathers than fathers working on site. However, no such association was observed for mothers.
Significance of the study
The study found that teleworking parents experienced more parenting stress than working parents during the Covid-19 pandemic. Specifically, teleworking fathers reported higher parenting stress than fathers working on site. However, no effect of telework on parenting stress was observed for mothers.
Consistent with pre-epidemic studies, this study found no association between telework and overall health among currently working parents.
As noted by the scientists, generalizability and lack of objective health data are limitations of this study.
The survey was conducted during the first two years of the epidemic, including 13 months of remote schooling in Chicago. Thus, teleworking parents had to manage work and school at home during this period, which could be a possible cause of high parenting stress.
Overall, the survey results highlight the need to implement strategies to support teleworking parents, such as promoting work schedule autonomy and employee support programs.
Such strategies can have important health implications for both parents and children. Before large-scale implementation of telework facilities, researchers, health care professionals, and policymakers should thoroughly evaluate the effects of telework on parental health and parenting stress.