Knowledge Center

After-School Worries: Tough on Parents, Bad for Business

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Findings: To become an employer of choice in a globally competitive environment, companies must invest in productive employees and a more effective workplace. In conjunction with the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University, Catalyst identifies one of the factors contributing to parents’ stress in the workplace, specifically parental concern about what their children are doing after school (called “PCAST,” for Parental Concern about After-School Time).

PCAST is an equal-opportunity concern, cutting across gender, race, and rank, from factory floor to executive suite. Working parents are at higher risk for PCAST when their children spend more time unsupervised, when they have more responsibility for childcare in their households, and when they work longer hours. Parents of older children (grades 6-12) are also at higher risk because this age group is more likely to be unsupervised.

Though a majority of working parents is faring well, the report finds that both men and women are vulnerable at significant levels to the negative consequences of PCAST. The resulting loss in job productivity is manifested in a range of indicators, including job disruptions, lower satisfaction with promotion opportunities in the organization, less belief that one can compete successfully to advance in the organization, and lower overall job satisfaction. Men with high PCAST are less satisfied with their advancement opportunities. Non-white parents may be at greater risk of PCAST given their greater use of after-school arrangements that are PCAST risk factors.

There are several cost-effective strategies that companies can use to mitigate PCAST by developing what Catalyst terms the “agile workplace.” The “agile workplace” is a concept placing emphasis on more job control, enabling employees to “work smart” and perform better, focusing on goals and results, and granting all employees access to flexible work programs, including flex-time, telecommuting, and flex-space. Working parents rate flex-time and flex-space policies as among the most effective workplace supports. Existing research shows that companies offering flexible scheduling options enjoy bottom-line benefits, including enhanced recruitment and retention, lower health-care costs, and productivity gains.

Impetus: With more than 50 million working parents in the U.S. labor force and workplace stress costing companies an estimated $50-$300 billion in lost job productivity each year, this report examines the risk factors and proposes solutions to maximize productivity for both businesses and working parents in today’s 24/7/365 workplace.

Methodology: Catalyst surveyed 1,755 employed parents (44.7 percent fathers, 55.3 percent mothers) who work at one of three Fortune 100 companies across the United States.

Sponsor: Citigroup, Inc.; Fannie Mae; Pfizer, Inc.