Working during a global pandemic isn't for the faint at heart. Everyone is managing to the best of their ability...but if you add in "raising children", "managing a household" and other obligations that employees may be experiencing, you may have a recipe for a disaster! Being a working parent/caregiver has many challenges. This is especially the case when an employee is a new parent, has significant changes in his/her life surrounding the children or is a parent that is new/returning to the workforce. This has been a season of adjustments, to say the least. Many organizations have supported their mothers in amazing ways during this unprecedented time. Others have said that they will but have not. Here is a list of five ways that companies can start supporting their parent/caregivers today:
1. Have less meetings (or no meetings at all). Managing children in virtual school and attending a meeting is difficult. Children are unintentionally disruptive and often need help working through their own technologies. Thus, if there are ways to work collaboratively outside the meeting - DO IT. Not every task, project or even discussion needs to occur in a meeting. For example, I have a standing meeting on my calendar - we meet weekly and during every meeting...there are crickets for a significant portion of the meeting. Having a meeting for the sake of having one is inefficient and places additional burdens on parents during this time. Companies leaders can influence a #workplaceculture of collaboration by encouraging use of better technology (such as the chat function) or even ringing your colleague if a question can be quickly answered. Simply put, have less meetings because many of us are suffering from Zoom fatigue.
2. Allow employees to donate their time to others. When children are sick, they can be sick for undetermined about of time. It is often the case that even if a child has a mild fever, some daycares and schools won’t allow the child to return for 48 hours or more. If a doctor's
note is required to return, there will be additional hurdles for the parent. This general policy has likely become cemented in light of the fact that COVID-19 is still impacting many nations. Mothers who have opted to put their children back in school/daycare will need time to be present with their sick child. If employees are allowed to donate their time, let it be so. Many would gladly do so! Donating time can help re-balance the workforce needs and help the company retain the best talent.
3. Ask about it and create a quality Transition Plan. Employees should be allowed to bring their best selves to work. Being a parent is an important part of being an employee. Asking upfront about whether someone is a parent can help the organization better frame remote working options and engage in empathy building for the workforce. Further, creating a Transition Plan and Policy should be a significant part of any Maternity/Paternity Leave. Whether transitioning in or out, creating a transition plan can best ensure that workplace operations are not disrupted by the employee’s absence and that the return will be successful. In many European countries, women are permitted to have a stepped/staggered approach to return to the workplace. I had the opportunity to explore that myself back in 2018 when I started part-time for six weeks and moved to full-time afterwards. A proper Transition Plan will help both the employee and employer.
4. Respect their Work-Life Alignment. Nothing is worse than being on holiday/vacation, out of the office (and especially) or on maternity leave and getting text messages from coworkers that read, “I’m wondering if you can update me on the project…” This happened to me during maternity leave and I thought, I’m sorry, I just birthed a human being, your project isn’t top of mind. Companies should promote "Work-Life Alignment" a term coined by Farah Harris, LCPC and not necessarily Work-Life Balance. In this instance, alignment means allowing the employee to enjoy all of their time off while they are aware from work. No log-ins necessary.
5. Launch a Parent Business/Employee Resource Group. Business/Employee Resource Groups (B/ERGs) allow employees to bring their best selves to the workplace. They also are a great value to the organization because it allows the company to learn more about how it can test and launch new products and services that parents may need. B/ERGs may also serve as a way to engage with parents that have unique or diverse backgrounds during the global pandemic by allowing idea sharing on how to best manage during this time.