Being a working parent has never been an easy task. It's hard juggling children, life, and our careers. But when you work in an industry with long hours or when your child is sick for a day at school all the time, it can become even more difficult. Luckily for today's working parents, there are many possible solutions to this problem. In an odd twist of fate, the COVID-19 pandemic lit the way for many of these solutions for working parents (with hybrid work being one of the leading ones).
Why is hybrid work a good solution for working parents -- and even more than that, is it enough?
If you want to build an inclusive workplace for all working parents, we have some tips for you. Read on and find out more.
Working Parenthood: A Paradigm
According to the U.S Bureau of statistics, in 2020, more than 95% of families with children under 18 had at least one working parent. If at the beginning of 2020 flexibility in the workplace was a notion rarely understood (in the proper sense), by the end of the year things changed dramatically (partly influenced by the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and the many months of full-remote work that ensued from it).
Being a working parent has always posed challenges. For many years, a lot of us lived under the impression that working remotely would at least make parents' lives easier, but as the pandemic proved it, the challenges only shifted their weight and made things even more confusing for many working parents.
Still, with the help of new technologies, flexible work policies, and new hiring practices -- with an emphasis on getting results -- many companies are increasingly able to offer qualified candidates the opportunity to diversify their careers in ways that make sense for their families.
We've seen a lot of changes within organizations -- not least in the way they structure their workforces in terms of employee benefits. Flexible work policies are increasingly becoming part of the job description in many organizations. Many companies have redesigned their organizational structures and hiring practices to support a different type of employee situation: one that allows them to achieve business results while also providing a better solution for working parents.
Undoubtedly, making yourself a desirable employer for working parents is essential to your business' success. Millennials are the main participant in the working force at the moment, with Generation Z coming from behind. Despite popular belief, the majority of Millennials are actually involved in family life (with six out of ten Millennials defining themselves as such).
Considering many of the representatives of Gen Y are just entering their 30s, it is likely that the numbers will change in future years, with more Millennials joining the ranks of parenthood (and, implicitly, those of "working parenthood"). Under these circumstances, keeping in mind at least a set of basic inclusive workplace practices is essential to keeping good, experienced talent on your side as a company.
Is Hybrid Work a Solution for Working Parents?
As the ultimate "balanced" framework, hybrid work comes to shed some light on the confused "vibes" everyone was getting from the whole "100% remote work setting". The question at the heart of the matter is, does hybrid work really work for working parents?
Hybrid work is a framework that enables employees to do their jobs in a "hybrid" way -- part remote and part in person. This means that employees can make use of both traditional workspaces (such as offices) and non-traditional ones (such as meeting up in public spaces such as coffee shops). The lines between different types of workspaces are often blurred when it comes to hybrid work.
The essence of this whole concept is to offer employees the freedom to do their work in a way that makes sense for them. This means that employees can work where they feel most comfortable, allowing them to combine traditional workspaces with non-traditional ones, as well as traditional working hours with non-traditional ones (and vice versa).
Employees are free to choose between various workspaces -- and their partners can pick which workspaces they prefer. Even more, hybrid work is frequently blended into the "flexible work" concept, which means that, depending on company policies, employees are also free to choose the times at which they want to work (along with the location from where they want to work).
For working parents, this provides an oasis of calm, precisely because it enables them to create working schedules around their children's schedules, homework, and activities. The beauty of this framework is that employees can adjust their work accordingly, and still get things done. More than that, they can take their kids to school and pick them up after they finish doing their homework -- and still make it to work on time.
Employers who decide to implement a flexible or hybrid work structure should keep in mind the following: working parenthood is often a complicated matter. Case in point: most parents wish to save money for their children's education or for other personal expenses (for instance, those related with raising children). While saving money for such purposes might seem unrelated to the main issue at hand, it is something that needs considering if you want to manage your workforce as an employer.
Unfortunately, as great as it may be, hybrid work is not a solution in itself -- not when it comes to making sure working parents in your company achieve the work-life balance so essential to their increased efficiency. Yes, parents want to work flexibly (with two-thirds of them admitting that this plays a very important part in how they feel at work). However, this might not be enough -- and as a company, you should definitely consider implementing further workplace strategies to ensure you build a diverse and inclusive workplace.
How Can YOU Help Parents in the Workplace?
Some of the main things you can do as an employer (aside from providing flexible and hybrid work options) include the following:
Create a Parent-friendly Company Culture
One of the main benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace is that it creates a healthy culture. A healthy culture is characterized by the way employees treat one another, and in particular, by their interactions with working parents.
Such interactions can go in two directions: one involving working mothers and one involving working fathers (and also in the reverse situation). How do employees and employees interact when it comes to working mothers? They usually either cooperate with each other (or at least want to), or they compete against each other.
The key element in creating a healthy culture is to encourage cooperation between working parents, so that they feel comfortable in the workplace, while also being actively involved in activities outside it.
Gather Feedback from Parents
While feedback can be highly subjective, you should still get an idea of what type of company culture you are embracing. Yet again -- this can vary by discipline or department. You might get one answer from HR analysts or another from engineers.
Consider Childcare Subsidies
Many companies provide subsidies for childcare, knowing that this will help them attract better talent. If you run your company in the US, you can ask for tax benefits by providing childcare services.
You can also share with employees the benefits of this type of subsidy. Aside from helping parents deal with childcare costs, child-related subsidies can also help them focus more on their jobs -- and thus increase their productivity.
Offer On-site Childcare Options
Another option you can offer as an employer is to set up a childcare facility on-site. This way, parents who need to work at certain hours can leave their kids at the premises and go back and forth as they please.
Encourage Everyone's Work-Life Balance
Parents or not, everyone needs proper work-life balance to "function" well (both at home and at work). If you want to build a more inclusive and flexible company, you should encourage all employees to go home on time and help their kids with their homework, as well as set aside some time for family activities on the weekend or during holidays.
Create a Parent Forum
Some companies use a Parent Forum to encourage and facilitate good parenting practices in the workplace. They usually do so in order to help parents feel more comfortable and engaged in the company's culture, while also lowering the rate of absenteeism.
Offer Paid Parental Leave
...as well as sick leave for when children are ill. You might think you're spending money for something that is essentially ROI-less on paper, but in fact, you're winning your employees on your side. And that is simply priceless.
Creating an inclusive workplace is not just a "fad" -- and it most certainly isn't just about gender, race, or ethnicity-related inclusiveness. For years now, parents in the workplace have found it extremely difficult to juggle with the work/ parenthood responsibilities. It is time this stopped -- simply because there's literally no reason someone who is a parent wouldn't make an exceptional employee and a true asset for a business. Provided with the right context, setting, and circumstances, working parents deserve to be treated well -- and they deserve to have access to the same kind of opportunities as everyone else.
What about you? What do you plan on doing for the working parents in your company?