Diverse voices: Parents in the workplace
Around 70% of today's workforce are parents, and while this group is not necessarily a minority, the challenges they face are unique and often overlooked. Let's dive into what employers and colleagues can do to provide choice and control, encourage community, and enhance flexibility for working parents.
The role of parents in the workplace.
Around 70% of today's workforce are parents. While this does not necessarily put parents in a "minority" group, their challenges are unique and often overlooked when discussing DE&I. With so many employees faced with the conflicting duality of being a caretaker and an employee, we thought it was time to shed light on this group. That's why this article dives into what both employers and colleagues can do to provide choice and control, encourage community, and enhance flexibility for working parents.
Following the pandemic, parents make up a large portion of employees that have quit their jobs or are actively thinking about it (McKinsey, 2021). This rise in resignation speaks to how compensation and benefits, working hours, social activities, and promotional ladders are not always designed with working parents in mind.
This lack of consideration further fuels the pressure parents feel daily, which can ultimately contribute to these resignations. From an employer's perspective, losing talent is never ideal, especially those who are likely on a solid leadership track or on the rise of their careers as parents typically are—as such, losing these employees can cause serious harm to an organization's institutional knowledge and company culture.
To better understand what employers and colleagues can do to create a more inclusive workplace, we sat down with parents at Amby to hear their take. During these conversations, one word came up again and again: flexibility. The freedom and understanding that comes with flexibility are pertinent for creating an inclusive environment where parents can do their best work.
You always feel guilty about something as a parent. You are trying to make time for your kid, do your best at work, or balance after-work events with kindergarten pick-up. There are also a lot of unknowns that require flexibility and understanding from your colleagues. For example, you can bet your kid will get sick at the most inconvenient time or decide not to sleep a night before an important meeting. Having empathy around this is incredibly important.
When it comes to flexibility, the most obvious form is flexible working hours or the ability to work from home when needed. However, after digging through the interviews, it became apparent that flexibility can take many forms for this group, and remote work is not synonymous with flexibility, nor the only solution. For example, practicing flexibility can look like rescheduling a meeting because of a sick child or not booking recurring meetings after 3 pm because you know your colleague is on pick-up duty. In other words, we found that it is one thing to say you are a flexible workplace in your job description and have a remote working policy, but it's an entirely different thing to practice understanding and flexibility day in and day.
Be flexible not only with working hours but also in terms of tasks, responsibilities, and requirements. Every week is different as a parent, so be compassionate and give some slack when possible.
Tips on creating a better environment for working parents.
While empathy and flexibility are essential, capturing and communicating that they are alive and well in your culture can be challenging. Which brings us to the question everyone is looking for - what can you implement today to create a better work environment for your parents tomorrow?
- Foster community. Show interest and empathy for your colleagues and their family. Something as simple as asking how the family is doing or showing interest in big milestones can do wonders. If you want to formalize a community, consider creating a forum (i.e., a slack channel) for parents to get together and ask questions, share tips, talk about upcoming events, and more!
- Cover childcare. Covering the cost of child care - either partially or fully - is an incredible step in supporting parents. 60% of working parents reported that they would stay in their current jobs if they had subsidized childcare. Additionally, 55% said they would take a pay cut to work for a company that provided quality childcare, and 81% said a company's childcare benefits were a crucial criterion when considering a job. While this may not be a perk that everyone can benefit from (i.e., if your child is grown or you are not a parent), providing it as an optional benefit is always a great solution - but more on flexible benefits in point 5!
- Take flex working seriously. If you have a flexible working policy, be mindful of varying schedules and "do not book" time in calendars. If you know that your colleague has daycare pick-up or dinner time, try to book recurring meetings between 10 am-2 pm when they are more likely to be available and present. Don't forget that a big component of making schedule adjustments comes down to communication around meeting preference times and daily workloads. Practising what you preach regarding flex working can help foster trust and give parents the headspace they need to get the most out of their family time.
Parents can't always clock expected hours in the company's core time for working hours. For example, 7:00 - 9:00 pm is an important interval for me to get "a full day's worth" of the job done since it can be challenging to consistently block our time in the late afternoon.
- Practice timely communication. Another way to be mindful of schedules and flexible working time is to delay written messages such as slack and emails. If a message can wait until the morning, type it out and schedule it for later when you know the receiver has the time and headspace to read it. This is a good policy to adopt for everyone with flex working policies - it doesn't matter if you're a parent, on vacation, or in a different time zone! Just be open about your preferred communication style and working times so your colleagues can adjust non-urgent communication accordingly.
- Provide choice. Every employee is different, so why provide everyone with the same benefits? Rather than a one-size-fits-all, empower your employees to choose which benefits suit them. This is easier said than done, but thankfully, platforms like Ben make it easy to have your benefits support an equitable workplace. Built around the idea that freedom of choice is a platform for inclusion, Ben empowers employees to customize their benefits in a way that best suits their needs and lifestyle. This way of implementing benefits allows the employer to offer a fair and inclusive benefits package for all employees, whether they are single parents, remote workers, commuters, etc. As previously highlighted, the initiatives discussed might make a big difference in parents' lives, ultimately making them more likely to stay and thrive in the organization.
- Plan social activities well in advance. Plan and communicate events like team dinners, holiday parties, and company off-sites well ahead of time. Additionally, planning social events during the daytime (i.e., "normal" working hours) can be a more inclusive scheduling time for those who don't want to face the tradeoff between valuable family time and team building.
That spontaneous after-work beer might not be realistic to join, but a long evening with dinner 2-3 weeks ahead is a lot more doable.
Employers can create a workplace that supports parents' needs by creating an inclusive, empathetic, and flexible environment and offering tailored benefits. With increased flexibility and an understanding work environment, parents are more likely to feel supported in their roles, which can create a more productive team.
At the same time, there are small things that colleagues can do to make the workplace more inclusive. For example, showing understanding for parents who can't work late evenings and weekends, being patient with them and sending a friendly reminder if they forget something, and planning social activities well ahead of time can make a big difference.
Ultimately, it's about creating a flexible and supportive environment where individual needs are respected and acknowledged. Parents, like any employee, should be given the freedom to make their own choices and the flexibility to make their work fit into their lives - not the other way around.
Brower, T., PHD (2022, June 22). Working Parents Are In Crisis: New Data And The 5 Best Responses. Forbes. Retrieved December 15, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2022/06/05/working-parents-are-in-crisis-new-data-and-the-5-best-responses/?sh=1ffeadcf7a8c
De Smet, A., Dowling, B., Mugayar-Baldocchi, M., & Talloen, J. (2021). Married to the job no more: Craving flexibility, parents are quitting to get it. McKinsey. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/married-to-the-job-no-more-craving-flexibility-parents-are-quitting-to-get-it
Growth Marketing Manager at Amby, who loves writing about the tech, venture capital, and people space.LinkedIn