A new baby is a beautiful thing. A new parent, however, can often be an emotionally and physically exhausted shadow of their former selves. As an employer, you need to be prepared for their return to work.
How family-friendly is your organisation? Even if you don’t have working parents in your organisation right now, the chances are you will have in the future as you continue to grow your business.
Why bother being mindful of working parents?
Some studies have shown that:
- 90% of parents find balancing parenting and work stressful
- 87% say competing demands of work and home impact on their performance
- 72% of women feel conflicted in their ability to balance family and career
- Parents can feel up to 20% less engaged in the five years after the birth of a child (Children’s services; Sanders et al. 2011)
Getting it right
However, we also know that when organisations get it right that there are some benefits to being realised:
- There is up to four times more engagement when a company demonstrates that they value working parents
- Employees who work flexibly are on average, more committed to the organisation than other employees who don’t ‘benefit’ from such arrangements (Kelliher & Anderson, 2010)
- Women in firms that offer flexible working are 30% more likely to aspire to high-level positions than those at organisations that do not provide flexible ways of working (Catalyst 2013)
Be smart, be aware of what’s going on
So what can you do in your organisation to support working parents and enable them to be at their best? Services like Mumager offer help to both working parents and line managers. Mumager says the two biggest things you can do, as an employer, are to have the right attitude towards working parents and to offer flexibility. Below are Mumager’s eight practical recommendations.
- Support women returning from maternity leave. This is a time of transition for most mums, and proactive support can make a huge difference to how quickly mums settle back into work. Many organisations have a ‘buddy system’ – linking up a returning mum with someone who has ‘has been there done that’. This practical support can help new mums in the weeks and months after they return, at no cost to you. If your organisation is small, you could think about partnering with some other SMEs so you can offer this support. You can also invest in your mums by sending them on a one-day ‘ramp up’ workshop. This practical course covers topics such as confidence, managing guilt, setting boundaries and time management.
- Equip line managers to be able to offer the right support. While you will have policies around maternity/paternity/parental leave – often it’s down to the interpretation of these policies by individual line managers. Give the managers in your organisation the confidence to have conversations around entitlements, managing leave and flexibility.
- Flexible working – be open to exploring options. When someone asks if they can work flexibly, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to work part-time. Flexible working may mean starting slightly later to do a school drop-off and working later in the evening, or it may mean working from home one day a week. Offering flexibility is a low-cost solution that yields a huge return regarding loyalty.
- Be proactive – identify likely ‘pressure points’ and talk through options in advance. It’s a fact that children are going to get unwell and be unable to go to crèche or school. What are you going to do in those instances? If you’re a small team, it’s likely that any absences are going to be felt. Talk upfront about expectations e.g. are people going to make up missed hours? What backup arrangements do they have? If a parent has to stay at home – will both parents take their turn?
- One size fits no-one. Avoid making assumptions about what people want or don’t want now that they are a parent. The best way to find out – just ask.
- Encourage employees to set boundaries between work and home. The boundaries between work and home have been increasingly blurred in recent years due to mobile technology. While for many of us this can be a blessing as it allows us to work more flexibly, for an increasing number of people it means we’re permanently ‘on’. This can affect our home life as we struggle to be present and ‘in the moment’ with our family. Encourage employees to set boundaries. If they choose to leave work early one day to take their child to swimming, you may agree that they’ll log on for an hour in the evening to make up the time. They can let the rest of the team know that this is what they’ll be doing – so that others don’t feel obliged to follow suit and start logging on in the evenings. If they are using parental leave to do a shorter week – set the expectation that they won’t be logging on that day and agree upfront with the team what constitutes an ‘emergency’. Setting boundaries are helpful for everyone – regardless of whether or not you’re a parent.
- Build resilience. Encourage employees to manage their well-being by taking regular breaks. Slogging through the day without a break does no-one any good.
- Offer parenting classes. Parenting isn’t easy – and it can get more complex as kids get older. Organisations that are keen to support their working parents have begun to offer parenting classes at lunchtime. These one-hour workshops cover a range of topics from potty training to behaviour. You can find out more at parentsupport.ie.
Show you value and support working parents and you will gain
These tips will help you support your working parents, so that they can be at their best – both at work and home. Showing you value and support working parents will pay dividends in the future – increasing both loyalty and engagement.
Mumager is an organisation that helps both working mums and their organisations to create environments that support working parents.