Cityparents Annual Survey 2018

Cityparents News

clock Released On 2nd Jul 2018

Cityparents Annual Survey 2018

Progress across the City is visible ... but slow, according to our annual City-wide research findings. 

There is gradual progress towards creating more inclusive, supportive workplaces. As flexible working gains momentum, increasing numbers of City professionals are gaining more control over how and when they work. At the same time, people are rating their physical and mental health as slightly better, compared to last year. 

However, the pace of change is slow and looks set to remain so.  Our data suggests that whilst more employers are investing significantly in formal policies and practical support to help employees cope, there is little evidence that they are addressing the underlying issues causing many professionals to feel constantly overstretched, dubious about their long-term prospects and unhappy about missing out on a meaningful home life. These root causes are:

  1. Unsustainable workloads
  2. Narrow and/or unclear paths for progression, and
  3. Too much variation in how line managers respond to team members’ circumstances, working preferences and career ambitions.

Our reaction

Employers need to move more boldly to signal cultural change.  Redesign jobs that are overloaded and teams that are under-resourced.  Revisit rigid performance management processes so they support the realities of a flexible workforce.  Be innovative in offering alternatives to traditional career paths and advertise these clearly through inclusive, forward-thinking promotion and succession planning decisions.  Gather, analyse and most importantly, act on data about where people are leaving or failing to progress and why.  Celebrate those line managers who are embracing flexible working and inclusive behaviours in their teams – you’ll know who they are (and who they aren’t).  Encourage the more change-resistant by running peer-led sessions for managers to exchange ideas and constructively challenge one another’s viewpoints.  

As individuals we have a role to play too, so here are some ideas if you’d like to be proactive within your workplace/profession (and remember in the Autumn we will be launching our 'Cityparents Influencers' initiative aimed at members who want to progress cultural change, with a dedicated programme of relevant events and content). Be a trail blazer with your working pattern. If you’ve taken SPL or extended leave, offer to share your experience with others following suit. Speak at internal networks about your own example (or examples in your team if you’re a line manager). Support junior staff. Offer to be a mentor. Be open about your wellbeing needs and priorities. Ask HR to connect you as a buddy with first time parental returners. Volunteer for pilots and working groups exploring new policies or ways of working. Pitch examples of successful initiatives and schemes from other organisations to senior management.  Not all of these approaches require large amounts of discretionary time, just an outward-looking perspective and speaking up at relevant opportunities.

As our own experiences tell us, talented City professionals want to continue working in stimulating roles while they raise a family/pursue a meaningful life outside of work. Increasingly, they are valuing flexibility over pay and are choosing roles (and employers) that offer a closer fit with their personal values.  The opportunity for City businesses is significant.  Here at Cityparents we remain committed to helping our individual and corporate members achieve a way of working that is mutually both successful and sustainable.

The full picture

What’s improving…

Many employees recognise the support offered by their employers.

  • An encouraging 44% said they felt supported by their employer as a working parent/professional (fig 1).
  • In our ‘City Index of Work/Life Balance’, 65% of respondents agreed that the ‘work culture in my organisation is becoming more supportive towards employees’. This is up 4% on 2017.

 Fig 1: “Do you feel supported by your employer as a working parent / professional in the City?”

A cornerstone of this support is the ability to exercise more control over when, where and how people can do their work:

  • 75% of respondents said they work flexibly, up from 69% in 2017. Importantly these are not exclusively parents - 62% of professionals without children said the same.
  • 91% feel their flexible working pattern is successful for them and their employer
  • Key to this success is having a ‘supportive line manager’ (73%) and a ‘cultural acceptance of flexible working’ (55%) (fig 2)

 Fig 2: “What does your organisation offer to help flexible working work well for you?”

‘Allowing flexible working’ is rated as the single most beneficial initiative to help people manage their wellbeing at work (fig 3)

  • 69% said this was the most valuable thing their employer has done to support their physical and mental health
  • 49% also appreciated the practical support offered e.g. events, training, wellbeing activities and membership, childcare

Fig 3:“What has your employer done that you have found most valuable in supporting your mental and physical health and wellbeing at work?“

On aggregate, people are reporting slight improvements in their physical and mental health:

  • 66% rated their physical health and wellbeing as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, up from 60% in 2017
  • 58% said rated their mental health and wellbeing as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, up from 55% last year.  A constant 8% rated this as ‘poor’.
  • 23% say they are experiencing mental ill health now, vs 21% last year.

Many City firms have been putting significant effort into encouraging conversations about mental wellbeing and tackling the perceived stigma around this topic.  Our research suggests these initiatives are beginning to have a positive impact:

  • Disclosure rates are up slightly at 36% vs 30% in 2017.
  • Whilst still only 15% of disclosing employees say they received adequate understanding and support in their workplace, this is up 3% on last year and a further 41% said ‘in part’, up from 31% last year

What’s still not improving…

Unsustainable workloads and inflexible career paths are still the major factors leading professionals to question their long-term prospects at their current organisation and in a City career in general.

In our City Work Life Balance Index we ask people to respond to 5 positively worded statements about workplace policies, culture, work/life balance, career progression and direction of change. Their answers reveal little has changed:

  • The Index average (of favourable scores) is 50% vs 49% last year
  • Less than a quarter (24%) say they feel confident of progressing their career without unsustainable sacrifices in their home lives (no change vs 2017) 
  • Many praised supportive line managers but too often, this depends on which team you work in

‘Coping with your workload’ is cited as a major challenge by 64% of people, up from 59% last year:

  • Only 11% of respondents said their employer had ‘reduced workload and/or increased resources’
  • Whilst flexible working offers the chance of more autonomy, resourcing approaches need reviewing too, with only 17% said their organisation offered ‘a fair allocation of interesting work’
  • A demanding workload is mostly commonly cited as the cause of workplace stress, with stress listed as the top mental health issue (81%)

In terms of career development, only 24% say their employer provides them with appropriate support to progress their career (fig 4).

 Fig 4: “Do you feel your employer provides you with appropriate support to progress your career?”

What stands out…

There is a striking disconnect between the support that people want and what is currently offered by employers:

  • Alternative pathways for progression (94%) and a clearly defined career path (94%) valued the most highly by employees, yet these are the least frequently offered by employers (22% and 23% respectively)
  • 91% would like to see performance targets adapted for flexible and part-time workers but only 36% say this happens at their company

This might help to explain low levels of confidence in employers’ plans to close gender pay gaps:

  • The majority (63%) were unsurprised by their employer’s report, saying it was ‘as expected’
  • Only 16% feel ‘very confident’ that their employer ‘will take meaningful action to close their gender pay gap’, with another 62% reporting ‘mixed levels of confidence’.

Many City professionals are unconvinced that their organisation ‘offers an inclusive environment where differences are valued’.

  • Only 44% agree (-3% on 2017) whilst 49% say ‘in part’ (up 6%)
  • Whilst 79% say they have never experienced any form of harassment in their current workplace, this means 1 in 5 have done so.

Whilst most employers have formal policies defining unacceptable behaviour, people say these aren’t always adhered to.

  • Only 12% of employees experiencing harassment said they felt supported in raising their concerns and the issue was dealt with appropriately
  • 38% of respondents say clear policies exist but instances of harassment aren’t always dealt with appropriately


For more information, please contact:

Louisa Symington-Mills:
Helen Beedham: at

Survey Methodology and Demographics

This Survey of Cityparents members working in ‘City’ professions was conducted from 4 - 22nd June 2018. It reflects the views of 664 respondents, The gender split is 87% female, 13% male and 94% of respondents are parents.

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