Even though, in today’s working world, there are millions of people that are deciding to leave their job for a multitude of reasons, the most unsurprising exodus probably comes from working parents. Juggling virtual learning, working from home and the office, as well as providing care to their children can cause them a lot of pressure and make them feel alone and helpless. Not only do parents have to carry the responsibility of caring for their children and keeping up with the demands of their jobs, but they are also responsible for the unseen mental load of managing a household, helping with schoolwork, and staying connected to their partners. Therefore, little time remains during the day for them to spend it on their own well-being and health.
Parenthood often comes with an emotional and physical toll. Even though this sounds like a negative opening, it just reinforces the importance of recognizing the difficulties accompanying being a parent, alongside the positive experiences. A 2021 study on working parents published in the International Journal of Human Resources Studies demonstrated that three of the five main areas of concern at the workplace for parents are:
- Work-life conflict: This suggests that parents struggle to balance out their work and private life, especially since the pandemic happened, as parents were faced with the challenging task of working from home, caring for their children as well as the additional role of facilitating homeschool. Due to the pandemic, parents could not rely on the primary support system since schools and daycares were closed, increasing the pressure for parents to juggle everything at home.
- Exhaustion: Being a parent is in itself considered to be a full-time job, therefore imagine trying to work three full time jobs simultaneously! In this job they are undertaking the role of a caregiver, teacher, and employee, all at the same time. Self-care becomes neglected most of the time, implying that getting up earlier in the mornings, multi-tasking more and going to bed later due to the inevitable truth of there just not being enough hours in a day to do everything, tends to lead to extreme exhaustion, fatigue and very often burnout.
- Career growth opportunities: New roles and positions require a period of adjustment, learning and change. For working parents, constant change and uncertainty at home may make the idea of career growth sound unappealing and stressful. Many struggle to even find time to pursue their career development, especially because many organizations also lack the necessary policies in the place to solve this issue. Moreover, stereotypes from colleagues at work often arise stating that employee’s childcare responsibilities might “get in the way” of doing their jobs.
The above-mentioned challenges that working parents can face in the workplace today highlights the value firms should place on implementing policies that will retain working parents and help make their lives a bit easier. Some methods include:
Offer More Flexibility with Working Hours and Location
Remote working and hybrid offices have been a growing trend in the working world over the last years, especially due to the coronavirus pandemic. Offering work hour flexibility, remote work, or hybrid models of working to parents can be key to their long-term happiness and job satisfaction. These types of benefits offered to working parents shows that the organization wants to create trust and support their employee’s mental health, especially the well-being of working parents. The latter will see employees thriving since it makes parents feel connected to the company, even if they cannot be there physically, and can therefore lead to higher retention, productivity, and performance.
Offer Family-friendly Benefits
Offering flexible working hours is a great start but furthering this thinking would be possible through introducing a benefits package, offering subsidies on childcare and healthcare provision, alleviating more potential financial and care issues. Many would argue that the type of benefits you offer your employees reinforce what you feel is important. Therefore, offering compensation such as healthcare, dependent care and family leave can help parents plan for their family’s needs as well as their own. Offering working parents benefits that go beyond the mandatory ones, such as a flexible PTO (paid time off) policy can help make working parents feel more understood and supported.
Support a Higher Level of Autonomy
Allowing parents autonomy in their work gives them the independence to for example be able to drop off and pick up their children from school. Enabling them to complete their work when it best suits them so that they can support their family environments would be very beneficial to the companies’ teams and their families. As long as targets are being met, parents could benefit from being able to split their workload accordingly.
Creating inclusive development schemes should be seen as a necessity rather than a luxury. Often working mums and dads would like to gain training and development following their parental leave, suggesting that further provision is required from companies to suit these needs. Any desire to learn and progress from working parents should be met with positivity from managers. Working parents need to feel valued, therefore flexible means of training should include VR and digital options in order for an inclusive development scheme to work successfully and be created for those who wish to progress beyond their current position.