Recent figures show that 96.5% of married-couple families with children have at least one parent who is employed. In 62.3% of these families, both partners are working parents.
McKinsey estimates that global GDP could grow by $12 trillion if women were able to engage in the paid labor force at the same rate as men. But, due to family commitments and the cost of childcare, they’re often unable to do so.
A part of this support has to come from governments willing to subsidize childcare. That’s not to say there aren’t things that employers can do too, though.
Working parents can bring huge strengths and benefits to your business, regardless of your industry. This includes the people management skills that come from dealing with children, and the diversity of thought that it can provide.
Here are just some of the ways your organization can make life easier for working parents:
Previously, and perhaps still in more old-fashioned businesses, some working parents might’ve felt unable to talk about their home situation. It would be hard or impossible to ask for accommodations to help them better manage their family responsibilities.
Hiding this huge part of their life from colleagues can be emotionally draining. That’s especially true if it means missing out on family events because of how it would look at work.
Women, in particular, experience more judgment when family demands conflict with work expectations. At the same time, they’re often seen as bad parents if they prioritize work over family. On the flip side, males are typically seen as better providers for doing the same thing.
Talking openly about their personal lives and interests is a good way for employees to bond. It’s important for them to understand each other’s perspectives as working parents.
Use inclusive language
The language we use is hugely reflective of our mindset and beliefs. The nuclear family may have been normal decades ago, but we live in a world that’s more diverse than ever.
To ensure your organization benefits from the knowledge and skills that diversity brings, you need to use inclusive language, too.
For instance, saying ‘maternity leave’ only reflects the needs of the mother.
What about the father and if he becomes the primary caregiver?
What about LGBTQ+ couples or non-binary individuals?
Using terms like ‘parental leave’ instead is more inclusive for all working parents.
Update your parental leave policies
Do your parental leave policies use inclusive language?
Do they include adoptive or foster parents?
What about non-binary folx?
Or equal time for parents of any gender, regardless of if they’re the one who gave birth?
Sometimes the parent who gave birth isn’t the primary caregiver. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve plenty of time with their new child to adjust to their new situation, though.
Big life changes are challenging. Having more time to get used to them without the stresses of work boosts new parents’ wellbeing. It also means they can be more present at work when they do return.
Consider your pregnancy and healthcare policies
What are your policies for employees when they need to visit the doctor?
What about medical emergencies?
These should clearly be in place so that if something happens during working hours, employees know how to respond. They need to know what’s expected of them.
For instance, if a pregnant employee takes time off to visit the doctor, do they need to make it up?
Or do they have a set amount of time they can use for doctor’s visits?
Likewise, what are your policies on employees going with their pregnant partner to appointments?
The clearer your policies are, the more you reduce your employees’ stress and anxiety. That way, they know how to navigate being working parents at your organization.
Welcome flexible hours
I’ve spoken to many working parents over the years who’ve stayed at a job they didn’t necessarily like—and that didn’t pay them as well as another job would’ve—because it offered them flexible hours that allowed them to take their children to and from school.
This saved them money on babysitters and made morning routines easier. It also allowed them more time with their families, something which is important however old children are.
Luckily, since COVID, more companies understand the benefits of flexible working opportunities.
Allowing employees time to pick up and drop off children from school, and attend sports events, plays, or other activities their children are taking part in, boosts the morale of working parents and shows how much you value the next generation.
At the end of the day, does it really matter if someone isn’t working every waking hour if they’re hitting their deadlines and their quality of work is what you expect from them?
It’s much more productive for someone to deliver what they need, then spend time with their family, than for them to sit twiddling their thumbs at a desk just because they feel obligated to work a set amount of hours that don’t make them better at their job.
Send surveys to find out what they need
Surveys are a great way to find out what working parents need from you and what their priorities/challenges are.
It’s important to approach these with an attitude of curiosity, not judgment. That way, parents don’t feel you’ll reprimand them for sharing their situations or suggesting ways you could support them.
Checking in with employees after big life changes shows that you value them and their mental health, as well as what they bring to the company.
You can work together to find any accommodations they may need, whether that’s flexible hours, new equipment or tools, or the ability to work remotely.
Distractions are everywhere when working from home, particularly if there are other people in the house. Maybe they need noise-cancelling headphones to make focusing easier, or a better-quality microphone so that call participants can hear them more clearly.
When an employer is willing to make adaptations and accommodations after big life changes—like a new child, a child suffering from health issues, or just the extra challenges that come with being working parents—it shows employees that they’re valued members of the team who aren’t seen differently because they have children or are about to have children.
Stay tuned for part two next week when we’ll share even more tips. That said, if you’re ready to start better supporting working parents now, equipping them with the right tools is a great first step.
Workrowd makes it easy for working parents to find the information they need when they need it. Plus, the platform empowers them to connect with fellow working parents at your organization from day one. And with real-time analytics, you always know what’s driving impact for them and where you can improve.