3 ways to help working parents succeed
The pandemic has laid additional challenges at the feet of working parents who have had to balance full-time remote work with full-time home-schooling and child care. Add to that the uncertainty of schools re-opening only to close again, and it’s safe to say that working parents have been feeling the pressure.
Indeed, across the board people have been feeling the burnout, stress and isolation of remote and hybrid models of work, with research finding that 64% of people have experienced burnout in their career, with 41% of workers reporting the burnout happened during the pandemic. These added pressures have led people to re-evaluate what they want in the workplace – resulting in today’s Great Resignation. Workhuman’s Two Years into COVID: The State of Human Connection at Work report found that nearly four in ten people are still planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months.
The demographic at the top of these voluntary resignations? Working parents, with 52% of working parents in the UK stating they intend to resign within the next year.
How to support working parents
This ‘parental burnout’ is very real and is being experienced by most parents in the UK. In fact, 80% of parents are showing warning signs that the pandemic has taken its toll on their mental wellbeing as they juggle the needs of their children while meeting the demands of their jobs.
So, how can organisations best support these valued workers as they face ongoing challenges? And how can they prevent them from jumping ship?
Here are three steps to help working parents – and the organisations they work for – succeed.
Step 1: Recognise the challenges and achievements of working parents
Working parents have always been among the most overburdened employees in any workforce, and COVID-19 only added to the number of plates they had to spin. From the full-time care needed for very young children who were no longer able to go to nursery or day care, or supporting older kids through their home-schooling and exams, to finding ways to keep everyone occupied during after-school hours and on weekends, working parents have been unable to switch off.
To combat this, organisations need to be cognisant that working parents might not be able to work regular 9-5 schedules, and that their working day might need to be modified to accommodate their family responsibilities. Even as pupils return to schools in the UK as restrictions ease, many working parents return to their physical workplaces and are still jugging commitments as pandemic-related challenges remain.
Leaders therefore need to be empathetic to the fact that not everything has quite returned to ‘normal’, and recognise the achievements of working parents as they continue to navigate the new world of work.
Step 2: Talk to working parents on a human level
There has been a palpable shift in power during the pandemic – people, now more than ever, know what they will and won’t tolerate in the workplace. They know what support they need and want from their employer, their office, their colleagues – expectations have shifted, and if organisations can’t meet them, then people will look for work elsewhere, as the Great Resignation shows.
Above all else, people want more human workplaces, where leaders recognise that people, that working parents, are humans too who want to feel part of a company where they are respected and appreciated for the work they do and who they are as an individual. Where they can talk openly about what they’d like to see in the workplace to best suit their needs and where leaders listen to these requests.
So, take the time to get to know your working parents – and indeed all your employees – on a human level. Talk to them about their personal situations, see what could help ease their burdens from a work perspective and make assessments about how to accommodate their individual needs. If there are concerns about scheduling, for example, have an open and honest conversation with them about how you can make it work for everyone. They will respect and trust you more for it, and engagement and retention will flourish.
Step 3: Celebrate human moments
Human connection has never been more important. The isolation, loneliness and loss of human contact during remote work has deprived us all of the small, everyday human interactions that occur in the office that we took for granted, from a quick catch up at the coffee machine to a longer gossip over lunch. And even as many people begin returning to the office in the UK, many of us are still feeling that lack of human connection.
Indeed, Workhuman’s Two Years into COVID report found that 66% of workers say they would appreciate more opportunities to celebrate personal life events at work, and that remote workers employed at companies that commemorate life moments feel more respected (78% vs. 58%) and appreciated (75% vs. 44%).
A workplace is nothing without its people, its humans, so it’s important to encourage them to be themselves at work. For working parents, who may spend a lot of time during the day revisiting long-forgotten school lessons, or celebrating their five-year old’s birthday, they will appreciate being able to catch up with their peers on an informal level to talk about the challenges in their day, or to chat over shared experiences.
It’s vital that organisations find ways to enable this human connection. If your organisation is still mainly remote-work based, encourage regular, informal video catch-ups among team members; if you’ve gone hybrid, encourage that Friday afternoon pizza party where people can join in person or online; and if you’ve re-opened the office, provide spaces and opportunities for more collaboration and shared experiences between colleagues. Also encourage everyone to celebrate notable human moments and life events that matter – from meeting someone’s new baby over Zoom to celebrating a milestone birthday with an in-person lunch.
For working parents, the past few years have not been easy. But when they – and indeed, all your employees – feel happy and comfortable at work and when they are free to be human and share every part of themselves with their colleagues, they will have greater satisfaction in going to work each day – and be more engaged, productive and trusting as a result.
As senior vice president of Global Human Experience, Niamh is responsible for people and culture globally at Workhuman, empowering a people-first workplace, a culture of positivity, and respect for all.