Are caring commitments slowing down the return to office?

This WORKTECH Academy Briefing looks at the record numbers of workers staying away from the workplace to meet caring responsibilities, and at the opening of Apple’s new London campus

Could caring commitments be one of the main reasons for a slow return to the office and a persistent shortage of staff in the labour market? The latest reports suggest that the burden of care is becoming a drag on the economy.

UK research by the Labour Party, as revealed in The Guardian, suggests that record numbers of workers are fleeing the UK labour market in order to manage their caring responsibilities. This particularly affects working women – they make up 84 per cent of the 1.7 million people who have given up work to take care of their families.

This issue is not just a British one. The Washington Post reported that 6.6 million people in the United States were out of the labour market as a result of caregiving responsibilities. However, the biggest increase was not in those quitting to look after children but instead to look after elderly relatives, spouses, parents and other relatives.

In America, caregiving is the second biggest factor keeping people out of work after early retirement and this relates to the effect that the pandemic had on families. It is estimated that around one quarter of workers that are missing from the workforce post-pandemic are out of work due to caregiving. The US economy is 1.6 million workers short compared to pre-pandemic levels, and two-thirds of missing staff are women.

‘The US economy is 1.6 million workers short compared to pre-pandemic levels …’

This is a significant concern, not only for companies looking to hire employees or retain their staff but the people forced to drop out of work may find themselves in financial hardship. Research by Firstly suggests that adult children who quit their jobs to care for an elderly parent lose around US $303,880 in potential wages, savings and social security benefits.

All of this comes as more research has exposed how women may be negatively affected by hybrid working, with female staff more likely to work from home due to caring commitments and consequently struggling to gain promotions and climb the corporate ladder due to an in-office bias by management.

Company childcare facilities or a financial contribution towards childcare costs may prove a powerful draw for talent in the years to come and could drastically improve staff retention, particularly for female employees. Large employers, take note.

Apple opens in Battersea

October has seen the iconic Battersea Power Station in London finally reopen after 40 years of dereliction, crazy plans, failed projects and a 10-year renovation funded by Malaysian investors.

One of Europe’s largest and most recognisable brick buildings, originally designed in 1929 by Giles Gilbert Scott and J Theo Halliday, is the centrepiece of a 42-acre mixed use development converted with restraint by architects WilkinsonEyre. Foster + Partners and Frank Gehry also contributed key architectural elements to the project.

Battersea Power Station joins a growing group of international innovation districts that combine high-quality office space with retail, residential and hospitality. The scheme has more than 100 shops, restaurants and bars as well 254 residential apartments designed by Gehry.

 ‘Apple’s new office is a light-filled oasis within the original structure…’

Apple has opened a new London campus at Battersea Power Station, spread over six floors at around 500,000 square foot and taking a large chunk of the total office space in the development.

Foster + Partners took the lead in the workplace design, creating an office space which is intended to enhance collaboration and wellness. With a tree-lined atrium and brick bridges and balconies that intersect the space, Apple’s new office is a light-filled oasis within the original structure of the power station.

From Battersea to Bishopsgate

On the theme of London, our flagship WORKTECH London conference will take place on 22-23 November 2022 at Convene, 22 Bishopsgate. The event will feature more than 50 thought leaders in work and workplace from the Chief Digital Officer at Mayor of London’s office and Head of Workplace at AstraZeneca to entrepreneurs and authors of books such as The Nowhere Office and Unworking: The Reinvention of the Modern Office.  Read the full conference agenda here and book your WORKTECH London place here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 26 October 2022.
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