By Lina Arshad
As much as we sometimes wish life could slow down, when you have kids, it can often feel like the complete opposite happens. And while welcoming new life into the world is an extremely exciting and special time, it’s not uncommon for parents to begin fretting about how they’ll juggle everything when they’ve stopped running off the adrenaline of their new routine and eventually make their return to work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Characteristics of Families report, in 2021, at least 32.8 million families (equivalent to two-fifths of all families) included children under the age of 18. Additionally, the same report revealed that at least one parent was employed in 89.1% of families with children. That’s a huge proportion of the workforce that, at some point, will likely struggle to juggle their time between work commitments and childcare commitments. And while parents understand the responsibilities that come with starting a family, as an employer, you should be committed to doing all you can to make their lives smoother and easier to navigate.
In this blog post, we’ll be sharing five things you should do to help support working parents within your organization.
Before we delve into the solutions, it’s worth outlining the challenges that working parents face in professional environments. And while there are sure to be many different ones depending on a range of personal circumstances, research published in the International Journal of Human Resource identified five common areas of concern for a majority of working parents.
So, while it may be easy to simply think of working parents’ challenges as juggling childcare and their job, it’s clear that there is much more going on behind the scenes for those in this category. And from the challenges listed above, there’s certainly areas that need to be addressed quickly if companies want to adhere to diversity and inclusion best practices and be able to attract and retain top talent—something that the digital skills gap and the Great Resignation have made particularly difficult for businesses across the globe.
By now, it’s no secret that people from all different walks of life provide us with a rich pool of perspectives to draw ideas from, and working parents are no different. But unfortunately, there’s a persisting stigma around working parents which pre-empts them losing focus and drive for their career after having children—and while becoming a family or expanding their family may be a dream come true, it’d be foolish to assume they can’t have other passions and goals for themselves in other areas of their life too.
There’s a plethora of benefits when it comes to supporting working parents and inadvertently, their families. These include:
According to the same Bureau of Labor Statistics report, in 2021, the labor force participation rate for mothers with children under 18 was 72.1%, while the rate for fathers with children in the same age group was 92.5%—this represents a huge proportion of the global workforce who are parents and actively seeking employment or were employed during this period.
And while this may seem a positive statistic at face value, a study by Cleo found that in Q3 of 2020, working parents in the US were cumulatively losing 720 million hours each week to stress, anxiety, and caregiving. Fast forward to 2022, and recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed more than 100,000 Americans missed work in October due to childcare responsibilities—that’s alarmingly an even greater number than those who had to take time off during the pandemic.
On top of this, a report from McKinsey & Co highlighted that high numbers of working parents belong to a key category of workers known as the midtenure employees. These are professionals who are usually in the more senior or leadership positions, and therefore can be especially costly to lose for businesses who will no doubt see knock-on effects to their institutional knowledge, managerial capabilities, and mentorship pipeline. So, providing them with what they need to balance their home and work life well is absolutely crucial to not losing out on your top talent.
It’s no surprise that looking after your staff by providing them the perks and benefits they want is a sure way to keep them happy and motivated—and this has massive potential to improve their productivity at work, so it’s a win-win for you both.
In fact, Unicef has touched on the importance of family and parental support from organizations, citing that family-friendly policies like breastfeeding breaks, childcare and child grants, and paid parental leave can pay off in numerous ways. This includes creating greater gender equality and sustainable growth within the business.
While the former two advantages may seem more obvious than not, what sometimes surprises people is the potential that supporting working parents can have on your organization’s diversity efforts. For example, research published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that when companies had universal policies for family leave time, flexible scheduling, and childcare support, the percentages of Black, Hispanic, and Asian American male and female managers increased significantly—as did the percentage of white female managers.
The reason for this is cited to be that these groups tend to face the greatest work-life challenges. For example, women and people of color are more likely to be single parents than white men are, as well as the fact that people of color have fewer resources and lower average salaries than white people. And not forgetting that people of color also often lack the sufficient resources for childcare that are necessary to help parents stay in their jobs and climb the career ladder to positions of leadership.
By supporting and nurturing women, people with neurodiversity, working parents and more underrepresented groups of people, you can in turn attract more of this diverse talent into your business—this not only shows others you care and support your people, but it’ll also show that your diversity efforts are much more than performative actions.
With research by Cleo finding that working parents make up approximately 40% of the workforce, it’s important that companies are doing everything they can to support and appeal to this group of workers. Not sure where to start? We have five tips to help get you started in becoming a better, and more inclusive employer.
By taking the time to find out what working parents are most struggling with, you can set out to try alleviate or solve these problems in priority order. Not only will this show you value and care about your staff’s mental health, but their reduced stress levels are sure to encourage better productivity and motivation while working for you.
By now, it’s clear that supporting working parents should be part of your diversity and inclusion strategy, and that in doing so, you unlock many benefits that can help both your business and workforce thrive. Need some tips to further your efforts? Here are five ways you can provide help for working parents within your organization.
While much research has been done to delve into the challenges that working parents face, it’d be foolish to assume these all automatically apply to your employees as standard. In order to build a personalized diversity policy that’ll really make an impact, you’ll need to make sure you’re tailor-making your strategy to the actual challenges that parents within your company are facing—as these may differ from those in other companies or countries.
For example, an article published by Yahoo Finance revealed that childcare is one of the biggest challenges for working mothers in the workforce. And considering Care.com’s Cost of Care survey had risen 63% in 2022 compared to 2021, it’s perhaps unsurprising for this to be one of the most common challenges that working parents need help with. Although businesses of different scales and sizes will have different capabilities in how much they can support working parents with childcare, it may be helpful to the working parents within your organization if you’re able to give them vouchers to use towards childcare or are able to provide them with subsidized costs.
When you’re juggling childcare and work, especially when remote working, you’ll know it’s sometimes impossible to get through a video call without one of the kids joining you on screen. And the fear of how people might react can be incredibly daunting, but by creating a truly inclusive company culture that supports working families, you can work to remove any embarrassment or shame that working parents might feel in these situations.
Similarly, if your company has a hybrid policy or is based full-time in the office, encouraging family-friendly days such as a bring your child to work day, can make all the difference in alleviating working parents’ stress about mixing their personal/family life and their work life. If you’re not able to do this, then even something as simple as taking an interest in your staff’s family life can reassure them that they’re working for an inclusive employer who acknowledges they have responsibilities outside of work. Plus, they will feel more confident in letting you know if there’s any problems if they know you’re aware their children, for example, do extra-curricular activities.
While work can follow a schedule, anyone with kids will know that trying to balance the family schedule is not as straight forward or predictable. So, weaving flexibility into the way you do things is always going to be a bonus when it comes to your employees who are parents—and according to our Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2023, given that 19% of Microsoft professionals working for an end user stated that they’d consider moving jobs for flexible working hours, it’ll likely be a great retention strategy for your wider teams as well.
With our report also revealing that 38% amount of Microsoft professionals would want to work from home full-time, and 41% would prefer hybrid working, it’s clear that being flexible to some capacity—depending on what is viable and suitable for your own business needs—can work wonders in your favor. This is particularly the case for working parents who will likely have school runs, parent-teacher conferences, PTA meetings, and their kids’ extra-curricular activities to fit into their schedule as well.
There are many ways as a business you can provide flexibility to working parents and your wider workforce, including flexible start and finish times to suit their schedules, extended lunch breaks your staff can work back the hours for elsewhere, enhanced parental leave, and of course, remote working as and when they need it—whether that be full-time or part-time. If you don’t know where to start or are struggling to think of the next steps you can take to improve working parents’ experience at your company, don’t be afraid to ask! Getting feedback firsthand from the people who it will affect is the easiest way to ensure you’re taking action that matters and will have an impact.
Once you’ve started to implement certain measures aimed at making working parents’ lives easier, it’s crucial that you actively communicate what help is available to them. Regardless of the size of your business, with so much going on it can be difficult for your staff to remember all the information they’ve received and if there are any specific actions they need to take—such as contacting HR or filling in a timesheet for flexible work hours—how they go about doing so.
You could do this by including reminders or highlights about your policies in internal newsletters or email campaigns you run, as well as being sure that managers are keeping communication channels open with their team members and reminding them of the policies that are in place for working parents.
Raising children is no easy feat, and often you’ll hear how relieved and reassured parents feel when they’re able to freely talk to other parents who are going through or have gone through similar situations as them—often leaning on them for advice and support. To show just how much you value this sense of community between working parents, why not build their very own at-work community through means of an employee resource group?
Your employee resource group for working parents needs to foster a culture of belonging and support from the get-go, which you can create through several different means. For example, you could host networking events like lunch-and-learns where the parents in your company can get to know others within the wider company. If you want a more formal approach, you could consider facilitating roundtables or presentations to allow working parents to have their say about their work-life balance and what support they feel they need to be able to progress in their career as well.
By providing your employees with a community of people in a similar position to them, you will help empower and motivate your staff—plus it gives you a great opportunity to find out more about their needs as professionals.
Being employed and being a parent at the same time can seem daunting, but any great employer should be ready to tackle the challenges that working parents face within their roles and be willing to implement the policies and measures that these professionals need to get their work-life balance right.
Interested in learning more about diversifying your organization? We have plenty of advice articles in the diversity, equality, and inclusion section of our Nigel Frank blog. Alternatively, you can contact us for a no-obligation chat with one of our friendly consultants, to find out how we can help you to recruit diverse talent.
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