Working parents

7 Ways to Support Working Parents at Your Company

5 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

Don’t get stuck in a reductive mindset and myths about working parents. They are valuable assets and accommodating their needs can be a win-win. 

It’s clear that with parents making up 40% of the workforce, you can’t afford not to hire and retain all that talent. But if you’re not offering adequate support or recognising the skills and benefits parents can bring to your workforce, you could find yourself trailing behind the competition. Stop losing your best people by giving them the support they need. 

Why you should hire working parents

There’s a long-held myth that working parents aren’t as committed to their job or are less career-oriented than those without children. In fact, parents are likely to be just, as if not more, motivated than people without children.

What’s more, the skills that are developed through having kids can have a positive impact on performance and enhance leadership qualities. 

Research from Microsoft found that 62% of women felt they were better at multi-tasking after having children while 46% improved their time management and 27% were more organised. 

The challenges working parents face

It’s clear that these skills can be an asset to organisations, but to enjoy the full benefits it’s important to also consider the various challenges working parents face. These include things like:

  • Difficulties maintaining a good work-life balance due to extra pressures like school or nursery drop offs and pick ups, school holidays and child sickness
  • The worry of being seen as ‘less committed’ to their work, especially if there’s a company culture that suffers from presenteeism
  • Fatigue from the demands placed on their time as they balance their personal and professional life. If any ball is dropped, it tends to be self-care
  • An increased mental load caused by having to factor in the needs of their children as well as their own professional and personal needs
Parents Working

How to make your organisation attractive to working parents

Tap into the skills and alleviate some of the stresses by creating a working environment that’s welcoming to parents. Here’s how to get started. 

1. Listen to what parents actually need

Create a feedback culture that allows your employees to honestly share what could help them. It may be that company-wide strategies that are intended to help are not useful for some individuals. 

Needs may vary widely from person to person, depending on their set up at home, and offering the space to discuss any reasonable requests can help you avoid resentment on both sides. 

2. Fully integrate flexible working into your company culture

The real benefits of flexible working are only apparent when fully integrated into your company values and culture. Simply offering an official line that there’s flexibility for school pick ups while in practice treating it as an inconvenience will only create confusion and resentment. 

You can: 

  • Offer flexible hours that encompass options like staggered working, compressed hours or flexitime
  • Make it easy for people to work in a hybrid way with whatever technology or access is necessary 

Make these accommodations open to the whole company, not only parents. Policies like these can make things easier for people with other caring responsibilities, people who are commuting long distance or those who need flexibility for other reasons. This freedom of accessibility also helps cement the attitude into the organisation’s culture.  

Duvet Days

3. Introduce ‘duvet days’

Offer 2 ‘duvet days’ per year where staff can take a day off at the last minute using their holiday allowance. These days offer the opportunity for rest and recuperation with no questions asked and can be very useful for employees who are feeling overwhelmed. 

It can be very handy for parents who need some time to sleep and take care of themselves and who find it difficult to prioritise self-care. A healthy working environment and a respect for relaxation time really helps. 

4. Give enhanced parental leave

Enhanced parental leave is an excellent way to show working parents that you are serious about supporting them. It’s no secret that offering extra parental leave can attract and retain employees. 

Just look at the FTSE100 companies who offer up to 40 weeks on full pay and the many more who offer six months for maternity or paternity leave. 

5. Be smart about how you schedule meetings

Put your money where your mouth is when it comes to offering flexitime by encouraging a culture of scheduling meetings during core working hours, where possible. This makes it easier for people who need some flexibility in the mornings or evenings. 

The same goes for social occasions or team building exercises. It can be hard for parents to accommodate special events outside of normal working hours and simply switching some of your events to lunchtime get togethers instead of after-hours dinners can make a big difference. 

6. Encourage asynchronous work

It’s also an excellent idea to encourage asynchronous work, which allows people to fit their tasks into the time they have available – even if it’s non-traditional. Handy tools like employee communication platforms and scheduling software can help this run smoothly. 

Allowing parents to manage their own time keeping and block off essentials like school runs in their calendar makes everything easier. But do also book frequent check ins, as you want to make sure parents are achieving a healthy work-life balance. 

7. Train your line managers and leaders

To achieve the kind of culture that supports and encourages working parents, you need line managers and leaders who are comfortable with their direct reports working flexibly.  
Training can help them understand the benefits of introducing flexibility and encouraging your entire team to prioritise family and personal commitments as well as professional gains. Employers want employers who help them achieve their goals, and supporting working parents is a great way of achieving this.

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