Currently there are 3.9 million working parents in the UK trying to juggle working and parenting simultaneously. The partial reopening of schools last week might offer respite to some parents but for many that juggling act is likely to persist until September and, with limited summer camp opportunities there is no choice but for them to carry on. To put that in perspective, that is the length of lockdown all over again. And we shouldn’t kid ourselves that those with older children might have it easier, we actually see stress levels for parents of older children increase with the age of their child and that was in normal circumstances, just imagine what those stress levels are like now.
So, what can we, as business leaders and HR teams do to make life easier for working parents?
Firstly, we need to open the conversation. Ask the open and unweighted questions, how are you doing? How are you currently managing to make it work? What can we be doing differently to make things easier for you?
Encourage teams to share their own personal challenges, most people genuinely want to be helpful so getting teams to band together, to help each other out, is exactly the right thing to do. The culture that is then created will persist once the initial crisis has passed and your business will be stronger for it.
Create communities of working parents within your business, encourage them to share their successes and coping mechanisms to be able to make it work. Parent & carer communities are needed now more than ever.
Clearly sign post employees to mental health support or invest in it, if you can. We’ve seen a huge spike in parents accessing mental health support and engaging with our child behaviour specialists which is making a real difference to their mental health and therefore, the productivity of employees.
Give parents solutions, there are so many innovative businesses out there developing ways to make things easier for parents. Here are just a few to take a look at:
- Mypocketskill is offering online tutorials with older students for £5/45 minutes, enabling parents of slightly older children some respite to be able to work while still home schooling their children. https://www.mypocketskill.com/
- Parental Choice, is offering affordable ways to help your teams search for and source temporary childcare to help them to cope. https://www.parentalchoice.co.uk/
- Koru Kids is helping parents source temporary childcare https://www.korukids.co.uk/content/covid-19-emergency-childcare
You’d be going above a beyond to offer your working parents financial support to tap in to these types of support services to enable them to work more easily which will have a massive impact on engagement and also your employer brand.
Create a database of online support services that parents can use to help to entertain children while they are working. There are some links in these articles that would be a good place to start:
Re-prioritise and refocus corporate objectives and encourage teams to think of the big picture. Most businesses are always trying to do too much. Give everyone a clear understanding of your over-arching goals as a business. Encourage managers to re-evaluate, re- prioritise and distribute objectives accordingly. Give working parents a series of achievable objectives and allow them to be creative about ways to achieve those goals flexibly.
Reassure working parents that this period of time is transient, that it will not impact their career development, that their development is very much at the forefront of your minds and encourage them to keep that in focus. To think about how to position themselves to still meet their goals regardless of what is going on in the here and now. While we’ve seen a huge increase in those accessing mental health support, those accessing career coaching, historically one of our most popular services has plummeted. It’s telling. It means parents simply don’t have the time to think about it right now and this will have a direct impact on your business.
Lead from the top, for working parents in leadership positions it is more important than ever to be honest about how you’re finding the juggle, make working parents feel that leadership roles are still within their grasp by demonstrating that you’re making it work while also experiencing the natural pressures that this situation is placing on you.
Flexible working is here to stay and recent adjustments to working arrangements for working parents are likely to lead to sustained flexible working arrangements. Opening communication channels with employees on how they would like their working week to look on the other side of the current crisis will mean you’re ahead of the curve and you can meet requests head on rather than leaving people feeling in limbo.
There’s an opportunity here for businesses. You can stand out from the crowd, go above and beyond, keep gender diversity and engagement high on your priority list and you will, without a doubt come out stronger on the other side.