The study, The Good Life Report, combines the AXA Business Insurance small business surveys from 2016, 2017 and 2018 with case study health diaries to get a picture of self-employment in the UK. It is this report that provides evidence that 20 per cent of new businesses in the UK have been started by parents keen to fit work hours around school runs.
It seems the school run is challenging not only in a logistical sense but also impacts wellbeing. The average journey to school is a 25-minute drive in the UK; however, parents can feel their stress levels building an hour and a half before they leave the house. This heightened stress level can continue once they are home, totalling nearly four hours each working day or almost 24 hours over the period of a week.
Avoidance of these high levels of stress seems to be a major motivator for one in five of the new businesses in the UK. Income for parents starting this work is fairly low; however, for many, it also means dispensing with childcare fees. The working day for these parents tends to be the five to six hours between school runs and average monthly earnings are £750.
It is in Scotland that this new trend is really being noticed. These school run-friendly enterprises are estimated to comprise one-quarter of new businesses in Scotland. This effect seems inevitable when linked with many areas suffering from an insufficient provision of childcare, with the associated costs for this care rising rapidly over the last few years.
The managing director at AXA Business Insurance, Gareth Howell, points out that family economics have significantly shifted over the past 20 years, as families with both parents working have grown by one-third. In contrast, schools still conform to a timetable developed over 100 years ago.
A key question is whether this shift actually eases pressure on parents? The study revealed that six in ten respondents felt their mental wellbeing had improved since making the switch. Unfortunately, the experience has not been as positive for all those interviewed, with 30 per cent feeling that stress levels had merely changed rather than reduce and 10 per cent feeling that their mental health had deteriorated.
Many self-employed parents had expected to enjoy more time with their children as a result of their shift in working, but it seems this was not commonly achieved. The rushed days of the new working style meant just over one-third of business owners had more time for their children; however, it appears the school run-friendly businesses have some associated health benefits.
Nearly half of those interviewed reported more physical activity during their days and less time spent at a desk. Interestingly, these business owners have lower BMIs than the UK average, although this may be connected to the fact that four in ten report skipping both breakfast and lunch to fit all their work in before 3pm.
This shift in work culture is one way to fulfil the demands of busy modern life, with further development interesting to track.