How employers can support working parents

When you’re a parent and you work full time or even part time, you essentially have two jobs. The only difference is that one is 24/7 and you don’t get paid for it. Yes, you get love and joy from your family, but parenting and working also comes with many challenges such as having to learn new ways to manage your time or how to maintain energy levels when you are constantly switched on. Not to mention having to raise, teach, discipline and navigate the ever-changing lives of your children.

Many parents often say that their children are the best things to ever happen to them, and that is true. But, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with a little extra pressure and challenge at times.

It’s important for employers to take be thoughtful about the lives of their employees, and what factors in their personal lives need to be considered for them to continue performing their best at work. Working parents often develop excellent skills and can achieve anything they want in their career with the right mindset, but employers should make it so they don’t have to sacrifice their family time to do so.

Here are all the tools employers can give to parents (and all employees really) to help people maintain a balance between family and work, as well as to remove pressure from working parents who have a lot on their plate.

First and foremost – Flexible work arrangements

In the current climate, we are all working from home and many children are learning from home. Wow! That’s a lot of adjustment for parents who are used to taking their kids to school each morning. It can be difficult to separate work and family the way we once used to. Flexible work is more than just working from home; it also includes flexible hours (such as start and end times, and flexibility during the day), options for part time work, optional meetings and more. This can relieve pressure off people to always be there to answer a call, reply to that email or be at a meeting which they could probably catch up on with a quick phone call at a later time. We all have different schedules especially with children at different ages, it almost seems crazy to try and set the same hours and timetable for everyone.

Making sure the right policies are in place

It should be all businesses priority to ensure their policies are up to date and in line with legal requirements. Not only should they meet the legal standards but they should be carefully adjusted according to the culture and employees within the business. Paid leave policies including sick leave, carers leave and maternity/paternity leave should be fair and equal across the board. There should be no policy that slips through the cracks. It can be helpful during this time to ask yourself the question ‘do our policies support families enough?’ as well as ‘do our policies include all kinds of families?’

Communicate with new parents on leave

Being a parent, whether it is your first or last child can be daunting and although it might become a tad easier having some prior experience, there is still the concern of ‘when will I go back to work?’. Some new mothers or fathers may feel pressured to go back within the set time of paid maternity or paternity leave and may worry that they risk losing touch if they are off work for too long. Make sure you find a way to loosely keep in touch with employees on leave. Of course, if some parents would prefer to switch off work entirely, you may just check in every two months to see how they are going with their new baby. However, some people love to keep in touch and it can be a great opportunity to strengthen relationships over something personal like family which is a huge factor in many people’s lives. It can also help parents eager to work again feel like they have not missed out on too much.

Advertise the resources you have in place

The key to this is to lead by example and remove stigma around using certain resources. Some of these resources could include; employee assistance programs, counselling, flexibility policies, healthcare benefits, fitness programs, childcare assistance etc.

Whatever they may be in your organisation, people need to know about them. Word of mouth is great advertising when it comes to EAP, flexibility and other benefits that people might hear about but not really know enough about.  The more that people feel like they can talk about the things that were so helpful to them the more likely you will be able to create a culture where the EAP is not just something that looks good to have in place but something that is actually supportive and will help people cope with change, new beginnings, challenges and any mental health concerns.

It is good practice to encourage managers to utilise these resources so they can then explain the process and remove any hesitancy from their teams using the resources if they feel they need to. Additionally, of course, internal communications can help remind people what is available to them; though, to repeat myself, it is much more encouraging to utilise something when you know it has been useful to someone else.

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