For many, rising inflation—at the gas pump, the grocery store, and even on Amazon—represents both an inescapable reality and a harbinger of things to come. While a loss in wages, equity, and savings creates stress for everyone, for working parents, that stress only multiplies. New research by Maven suggests the current economic climate deeply affects the way working parents feel about their ability to raise their families, with deep-seated impacts on their relationships, productivity, and confidence. 

Are parents feeling anxious about the economy?

As economic anxiety rises, consumer-confidence measures have slipped every month. To understand how this impacts working families, Maven surveyed 250 full-time working parents in the U.S. with at least one child under 18. The results overwhelmingly confirmed that the current economic climate makes parents feel anxious—83% of respondents agreed with the statement. But the responses also shed light on working parents’ perspectives on the current economic climate and its effect on their relationships and productivity. 

83% of respondents said the current economic climate makes them feel anxious.

The complex relationship between economics and mental health

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, various shocks and waves have rocked the global economy, including shortages, delays, and most recently, a war. The resulting inflation and consequential forecast of recession, is putting significant stress on working parents, whether due to strained finances, economic insecurity, or general uncertainty about the future. 

Working parents in your organization likely already have several risk factors for mental illness, considering 66% are experiencing symptoms of burnout. The complex relationship between economic security and anxiety only makes it worse. Working parents, and especially moms, have already experienced significantly higher rates of mental illness than their childless counterparts since the pandemic began, a testament to the challenges they face navigating childcare, hybrid work, and COVID anxiety. Add in news about mass layoffs by high-profile companies and record-high gas prices, and there’s a perfect storm brewing for a mass meltdown among your employees with children. After last year’s “Great Resignation,” employers need to start planning for what’s to come.

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Economic anxiety impacts life at home and at work

Like any other form of anxiety, economic anxiety has far-reaching implications for the way working parents manage and cope with stressors. The resulting behaviors—both positive and negative—impact the way working parents interact with both their colleagues and their families.

Our survey found that 64% of respondents felt economic anxiety impacted their relationships with their partner, and 63% felt it impacted their relationships with their children. Breaking it down further, 83% felt some level of anxiety in the last two years about their ability to parent, whether because of their fears about COVID, the economy, or something else. Strained relationships and increased stress can wreak havoc on working parents, especially in their careers.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of economic anxiety

Among respondents who said they felt some form of anxiety about the economy, 29% said it negatively impacted the way they work, while a surprising 36% said it positively impacted the way they work. Those who said it had a positive impact said it motivated them to work harder, to take on more projects or responsibilities, or to hunker down for their families amid hard times. 

On the other hand, respondents who said it negatively affected them, cited lower productivity, higher anxiety, and higher irritability. Some even said they took on more hours or second jobs just to make up for the effects of inflation. In fact, of respondents who felt negatively affected by economic anxiety, 34% said they wanted to look for a new job altogether. No matter how they viewed the impact, it’s clear that the majority of parents feel affected by the economy, facing potentially long-term consequences.

Of respondents who said economic anxiety negatively affected their work, 34% said it made them look for a new job.

Supporting working parents through economic anxiety

Economic anxiety carries clear risks, including reduced productivity and employee loyalty, increased risk for mental illness, and above all else, people in your organization suffering in silence. While HR teams can’t bring down the price of gas or make chicken breasts more affordable, you can still take tangible steps today to improve the lives of working parents while the world braces for the looming recession.

What kind of support are parents looking for?

Short of offering more money, employers can still support working parents in a number of different ways today. The survey found that respondents want more support and understanding within their places of work:

The survey revealed that working parents want practical assistance navigating economic anxiety: how to talk to their children about it, making better budgets, upskilling or changing careers, and, of course, building better coping skills for anxiety and other symptoms of burnout. 

Building better benefits for working parents

How can you provide the practical support working parents need? There are several ways:

  1. Improving access to coaching and educational resources

Although career advice abounds across the internet, social media, and even the break room, working parents are looking for assistance from expert coaches. Improving their access to care through virtual solutions, for example, can help them find and meet with providers at any time of day, wherever they are in the world, which can be especially helpful in the age of hybrid work.

  1. Reducing out-of-pocket expenses

To improve access to care, it’s also important to reduce financial barriers. You can help reduce out of pocket expenses for family care by offering reimbursement programs for services that aren’t covered by insurance, or by partnering with vendors like Maven who can offer discounts for partnered clinics and providers.

  1. Implementing family-friendly policies

To support working parents, it’s crucial to build a family-friendly workplace. Investing in family benefits that are unique and personalized to their needs, in addition to implementing policies like flexible or hybrid work, unlimited PTO, and improved paid leave can highlight your commitment to your employees’ families—and improve talent retention among this critical group.

Maven helps working parents get the care they need

Maven is the leading global digital health platform for reproductive and family health that helps companies provide high-quality, comprehensive support for their employees as they pursue and navigate parenthood and beyond. Our holistic care model offers wraparound fertility support through personalized care teams, dedicated care advocacy, and evidence-based care management programs to help drive better outcomes for your employees.

To learn more about how Maven can support the mental and physical health of working parents in your organization, check out our client testimonials.

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