Are Employers Throwing a Rescue Line to Working Parents? The Results Are In...
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
The pressure in 2020 is real. Everyone feels it, especially amid a year that defied everyone’s expectations—and not in a good way.
(If you haven’t already today, feel free to take a couple of deep breaths...you deserve it!)
While everyone feels the pressure, parents and caregivers are in the unique position of managing an incredibly tough season. Working parents are balancing jobs and home life issues while walking a thin tightrope represented by the current pandemic.
Those working in offices and coworking spaces had to quickly shift from onsite cubicles to coffee tables and in many cases, also take on part-time roles as teachers to their children.
If you’ve been following hashtags like #workingparent on Twitter (or even keeping an eye on your LinkedIn feed), you may have witnessed a snippet of their lives:
Even Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, isn’t exempt from juggling the demands of a close election and a texting teenager.
Also this dad had an “ironclad” strategy to carve out some uninterrupted work time:
In short, there are MANY parents out there who have befriended Redbull and Netflix Kids. They’re doing their best to take steps to improve their work-life balance but are running into issues juggling work deadlines and the demands of a family who are all under the same roof 24/7.
If this sounds like you, I’m betting that even if you have some semblance of an organized day, you could probably use a little help. Which leads me to say...
Parents Need Support From Workplaces—Period
Obvious? Maybe. A given? Definitely not.
The bottom line: working moms and dads are struggling during COVID-19. According to Catalyst, 71 percent of mothers and 65 percent of fathers have had to modify their work routines to adapt to caregiving responsibilities. The report also indicated that both parents feel guilty when working because they cannot tend to caregiving responsibilities.
A look at COVID-19’s pandemic impact on parental work routine.
Additionally, most parents—particularly mothers (49 percent vs. 39 percent of fathers) are unaware of their employers’ plans to support parents.
:::record scratch::: Yes, you read that right. Unaware!
Whether you’re an employee or employer, your company can do things to better serve working parents. This action should go beyond ‘generous’ PTO and family leave offerings. There has to be an established culture of supporting parents and building a flexible work environment so parents, guardians and caregivers don’t have to sacrifice work or family time.
Fortunately, some empathetic and forward-thinking companies are stepping up to the plate and being model sources of support for working parents.
These Companies Are Answering the Call
From the downright adorable to effectively efficient, there are numerous examples of exceptional companies creating flexible work environments for working parents—like you.
Take a look at these inspiring and impactful accounts of companies—remote and non-remote—that have put systems in place to make it easier for parents to do their jobs and still be there for their children. Who knows? You may pick up an idea to take back to your company for consideration.
Simply acknowledging parenthood
Have you ever felt like you had to hide or explain away your family responsibilities? Well, you aren’t alone. Catalyst’s study showed that 41 percent of mothers and 36 percent of fathers felt they had to hide their caregiving duties. Simply displaying the act of balancing work and home life issues feels like a taboo for many.
And, it shouldn’t. Children are not props just to be paraded out during the annual company picnic; they are real growing people you are responsible for raising— and some companies truly get that.
Some employers support parents by simply acknowledging their situation in thoughtful ways.
For example, Whereby, a video conferencing company, chose to do this by creating a blog post to offer tips to help parents survive lockdown. They also included relatable tweets from professionals juggling parenthood and work life. (Whereby is headquartered in Norway, a country that is no stranger to promoting family-friendly workplace policies—something that many U.S. companies can take a few notes on.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t have to hide a significant part of your life from your employers. Companies that openly embrace that their workers are parents and caregivers tend also to offer policies that enable them to take steps to improve work-life balance.
Providing flexible schedules
What was your busiest time of the day before the pandemic? Was it getting the kids off to school in the mornings? Or was it pick-up and the evening that followed?
Today, you may find that busy times can occur throughout the day. Your child could need help with a quiz, require tech troubleshooting or be searching for snacks at any time.
These ‘new distractions’ can make checking off to-do list tasks or joining that meeting almost feel impossible. So, the next best thing is for companies to support a flexible work environment to offer the time you need to try to handle...well, everything.
A great (and perhaps surprising?) example is ride-sharing juggernaut, Uber. They have led the way on this by offering flexible work hours through its Global Caregiver Enhanced Flexibility Policy. This arrangement also gives workers the right to skip low-priority meetings, which is something most remote workers can benefit from.
Many other companies are also enabling parents—and non-parents alike—to take advantage of flexible work hours. Some of you out there could be caregivers to your own aging parents, or loved ones with disabilities. Resultantly, these policies could give you the time to take care of what—and most importantly, who—you need to whenever it’s needed.
Some companies have even made the news in the past few months for switching up their work arrangements to make life easier for working parents:
Google announces their policy to let parents work from home until summer 2021.
Distributed company Basecamp urges workers to take time off to manage their upended routines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apple’s HR team is actively seeking input from working parents about how the company can best support them.
Many companies are answering the call and are trying to adjust how they do business to accommodate working parents.
Involving the Kids
There’s something both comforting and empowering about knowing that senior leadership understands the new challenges you face as a parent or caregiver, and that they choose to do what they can to show your family matters.
One way companies are making this clear: acknowledging others’ children during the actual workday. Photos are popping up all over social media of kids joining in on video conferences with parents.
In the below tweet FireEngineRED CEO, Shelly Spiegel (@ShellyJSpiegel) reinforces her commitment to her employees and their families. In it, she describes how children are a part of her company’s broader ‘team’.
She also makes a point to engage kids by sending their folks age-appropriate videos they can enjoy. This move not only shows that she is supportive of her worker’s families, but also makes the kids feel involved in their parent’s workday.
Founders Marketing CEO Kristi DePaul also involves her children in her workday whenever she can. (This started well before the pandemic, by the way.)
Whether they’re lying in her lap for a midday nap…
Or playing hide-and-go-seek behind her laptop.
The reality for companies is that your kids are going to be around. As a result, hiding or attempting to underplay your parental or caregiving duties shouldn’t be the norm. It can, in fact be just as beneficial for your children to be involved in your workday routines as it is for you.
A recent article by Sarah Green Carmichael (@skgreen) of Bloomberg talked about the intangible benefits of having your children work alongside you. According to Green Carmichael, these include helping kids learn how to handle stress and anxiety, and build their own steps to improve work-life balance by watching you—their most influential teacher. So, take joy in the fact that this experience is teaching your kids some lasting lessons that they likely won’t get in a traditional classroom.
Offering help with childcare
For some of you, working from home isn’t an option. Your job may require you to be onsite, which means that you have had to find childcare of some kind. As most of you probably already know, childcare can be a considerable expense. Some considerate employers have also realized this and have stepped up to offer more direct support.
Toyota offered an onsite program to help workers at a Georgetown, Kentucky manufacturing plant by helping employees’ children with virtual learning lessons. These were offered at a cost 500 to 700 dollars less than the average monthly expense of childcare in the United States, which is $1,230.
Also, Bank of America offered employees a daily $75 or $100 childcare reimbursement through the end of this year.
Again, it’s important to remember that not everyone has the ability to work from home, and may have to put children in daycare in order to do onsite work. It’s heartening to see that some companies are holding the line by helping to offset the cost.
It Takes A Village—Literally
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a tall order for parents all over the world.
You are having to meet the demands of your jobs while teaching multiplication, clarinet and helping with the latest science project. Feeling overwhelmed and a bit frustrated comes with the territory. At some companies, an all-hands-on-deck mentality is helping.
Beyond the challenges, however, there may be a silver lining to this situation. This could spark a new era of workplace flexibility and support for parents, guardians and caregivers like you. In the near future, we could see more employers joining organizations like The Mom Project, to invest in moms’ careers, or taking a page from sites like Fatherly to share blog posts and resources for dads.
We’re finally witnessing a shift in workplace culture where our colleagues don’t have to sacrifice their parental and caregiving commitments, but can instead receive some deserved support. And it’s about time!