The Parent Trap: Work, Childcare, and the COVID-19 Pandemic Create Trying Times for Working Families

Everyone May Be Feeling the “Summer Scaries” Differently, Finds The Workforce Institute at Kronos
August 19, 2020, LOWELL, Mass.

As fall rapidly approaches, organizations should pay extra attention to working parents and guardians: According to a survey from The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated, nearly three-quarters (72%) of U.S. employees with children under 18 in the household are anxious about balancing the demands of their job with childcare – including school re-openings, virtual learning, and daycare capacity – in the coming months.

“The Summer Scaries Survey” also found employees without children under 18 may need more encouragement to take time-off to mentally and physically rest and recharge: Just a third (37%) have done so since the start of COVID-19, potentially putting them at risk of burning out.

Conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Workforce Institute at Kronos from July 14-16, “The Summer Scaries Survey” is the first benchmarking poll among 1,226 employed U.S. adults, including approximately half with children under 18, to understand today’s work challenges.

News Facts

  • Under pressure: Nearly three out of four employees with children under 18 in the household (73%) say the events of 2020 are causing them enough stress to affect their work.
    • Among all employees, just under two-thirds (62%) agree that 2020’s events – which include the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and upcoming Presidential election – are causing stress which is detrimental to their work performance.
    • Both employees working remotely due to COVID-19 (68%) and employees who worked remotely prior to COVID-19 (64%) feel this year’s stress-inducing events are affecting their work at higher rates than employees still going into a physical workplace (55%).
    • Two-thirds of 18-34-year-olds (66%) and nearly three-quarters (72%) of employees aged 35-44 say stress caused by 2020’s events is impacting their work, which is higher than older age groups, including 45-54 (60%) and 55+ (49%).
  • The brink of burnout: While 58% of employed parents with children under 18 in the household have taken time off from work to mentally and physically rest and recharge during COVID-19, they’re doing better than colleagues without kids.
    • Only slightly more than a third (37%) of U.S. employees without children under 18 in the household say they have taken time off to rest and recharge during the pandemic, a reminder for organizations to encourage all employees to exercise more self-care.
    • Those who are going into a workplace – mainly frontline and essential workers – are less likely to have taken time off over the last five months to rest and recharge (39%) than those who currently work remotely due to COVID-19 (49%) and those who always work remotely (55%).
    • There are generational differences in time-off trends, too: while 58% of employed 18-34-year-olds and 62% of employed 35-44-year-olds have taken time off to mentally and physically rest and recharge since March, less than two in five (39%) employed 45-54-year-olds and only about a quarter (24%) of employees aged 55+ have done so.
  • Safety – and contact tracing – are paramount: Whether an employee has children in the household or not, the majority seem to be concerned with COVID-19 infiltrating their workplace.
    • Nearly nine out of 10 employees (86%) believe their employer has an obligation to notify those who may have been in contact with a coworker who tested positive for COVID-19, including 89% of those who must go into a physical workplace, 86% of parents with children under 18 in the household, and virtually everyone in a high risk age group (55+, 95%).
    • Nearly eight out of 10 employees (78%) say they would not want to risk going into or returning to their workplace if the number of COVID-19 cases was rising in their region. Though, the high number is driven by employees working remotely specifically due to the pandemic (88%), who are far more likely to be concerned about returning to a physical workplace than those who are currently going to a workplace (66%).

Supporting Quotes

  • Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos
    “While summer is normally a time for employees to unplug and recharge, this summer has been anything but normal. Return to learning strategies are now on a collision course with the reality of work for tens of millions of parents who, like myself, are trying to make sustainable plans for an unpredictable situation. Now more than ever, self-care and open communication is paramount to reduce the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that everyone – whether a parent or not – is facing in order to reduce the likelihood of burnout later this year and next year.”
  • John Frehse, senior managing director, Ankura Consulting; advisory board member, The Workforce Institute at Kronos
    “COVID-19 has infiltrated virtually every aspect of work and life for employees, whether they’re part of the present workforce or able to work from anywhere. Instead of doubling down on the way things have always been, now is the time to explore novel strategies, like alternative scheduling practices or financial wellness programs, that could provide employees with the edge they need to overcome the challenges they may be facing in their personal lives. Organizations that find ways to reduce that stress and pressure will be repaid in spades with engagement and productivity.”

Supporting Resources

About The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated

The Workforce Institute provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organizations around the globe. By bringing together thought leaders, The Workforce Institute is uniquely positioned to empower organizations with the knowledge and information they need to manage their workforces effectively and provide a voice for employees on important workplace issues. A hallmark of The Workforce Institute's research is balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the needs of organizations. For additional information, visit

About Kronos Incorporated

Kronos is a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Kronos industry-centric workforce applications are purpose-built for businesses, healthcare providers, educational institutions, and government agencies of all sizes. Tens of thousands of organizations — including half of the Fortune 1000®  — and more than 40 million people in over 100 countries use Kronos every day. Kronos merged with Ultimate Software on April 1, 2020, to create one of the world’s most innovative HCM and workforce management companies. Visit Kronos: Workforce Innovation That Works.

About Ultimate Software

Ultimate Software is a leading global provider of cloud human capital management (HCM) and employee experience solutions, with more than 51 million people records in the cloud. Ultimate’s award-winning UltiPro delivers HR, payroll, talent, and time and labor management, as well as HR service delivery solutions. Founded in 1990, Ultimate is headquartered in Weston, Florida, and employs more than 6,000 professionals. To learn more, visit Ultimate Software: People First.


Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Workforce Institute at Kronos from July 14-16, 2020 among 2,069 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,226 are employed. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].

© 2020 Kronos Incorporated and Ultimate Software. All rights reserved. Kronos and the Kronos logo are registered trademarks and Workforce Innovation That Works is a trademark of Kronos Incorporated or a related company. See a complete list of Kronos trademarks. UltiPro is a registered trademark of The Ultimate Software Group, Inc. All other trademarks, if any, are property of their respective owners.