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New Business School research has found that parents who feel ashamed when something at work calls into question their parenting role, are less productive than those who do not feel ashamed.

The research, by Dr Yingli Deng alongside colleagues from other universities around the world, looked to understand how parents perceive the balance between childcare and work responsibilities. They explored whether parents felt shame when others criticised their parenting at work and how this might then affect their work productivity.

About the study

Dr Deng and her team carried out several studies with over 500 working parents to determine their productivity levels, their emotional stability and the amount of shame they felt whilst working from home.

Results showed that parents who had a lower level of emotional stability were more likely to doubt themselves as a good parent and so felt shame after they perceived parental identity threat. These feelings of shame in turn, would reduce employees’ work productivity and motivate them to spend more time invested in childcare duties.

Why this might be

The researchers state the decrease in productivity is because parents view work and childcare as competitors for their time. In order to increase effort in one activity, they then actively decrease effort in another.

“Working parents not only experience pressure to exemplify an ‘ideal’ worker role, but they are also expected to engage in intensive parenting practices to raise successful children. Although the roles can complement each other, many find achieving this balance challenging, and therefore end up prioritising childcare as it is deemed more important.” Dr Deng.

How employers can help

Dr Deng and colleagues explained that in today’s remote working world, the lines between professional and personal responsibilities are becoming blurred. More often than not, working parents are struggling to cope with the pressure of juggling the two. To help working parents tackle this problem, Dr Deng suggests organisations can, and should, be doing more to help them balance both their working role and their parental role too, saying: 

“Organisations can train managers to recognise when employees are struggling with these issues, and work through those vulnerabilities by helping them to identify ways to proactively bounce back from their self-despair without withdrawing from their work roles.”

Dr Deng also suggests employers can also help employees further by giving them more flexibility to attend to their children’s needs, in exchange for gaining more focused and hardworking employees whilst on the job.

More information

Find out more about Dr Yingli Deng.

This research was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Dr Yingli Deng, Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Marketing, carried out this research with Dr Rebecca Greenbaum, Professor in Human Resource Management Department at Rutgers University, Dr Marcus Butts, Associate Professor in the Management and Organizations Department at Southern Methodist University, Dr Cynthia Wang, Clinical Professor of Management & Organizations at Northwestern University and Dr Alexis Nicole Washington, Associate Professor in the Management Department at Oklahoma State University.

You can read more research articles about remote working and business on the Business School’s Impact Hub.