How to Support Parents in the Workplace

In 2020, we couldn’t have gotten further away from the whole business-as-usual idea. Companies were forced to lay off thousands of workers. Kids were suddenly being home-schooled across the country. And parents – if they were lucky enough to have a job – were madly trying to juggle work and family life with some sliver…

In 2020, we couldn’t have gotten further away from the whole business-as-usual idea. Companies were forced to lay off thousands of workers. Kids were suddenly being home-schooled across the country. And parents – if they were lucky enough to have a job – were madly trying to juggle work and family life with some sliver of professionalism (it wasn’t easy).

Guilt, stress, burn-out and anxiety have been part of the experience for many Australian parents in the past 12 months and the knock-on effects of the pandemic have been huge. Many Australians will continue to struggle in the coming months and perhaps even years.

What can employers do? A lot, actually. With 7.2 million families in the Australian workforce, it’s up to companies to be compassionate, flexible and help their employees navigate what are very unchartered waters.

Employers are also in a unique position to re-invent the company culture (if that’s what’s required) and shift the future of work at the organisation in a way that promotes supporting and really caring about the parents in your employment.

Family-friendly policies

Here are just a few things you could consider as an forward-thinking organisation, when it comes to supporting working parents and helping them thrive.

Embrace remote working. Telecommuting is the new normal for many employees. So don’t force your staff to be bums on seats if it’s not absolutely necessary. You don’t know the challenges they may be facing at home, and enabling them to work remotely may help them out enormously.

Enable flexible working arrangements. A 9-5 routine might not be possible right now for many people, so let employees know that you support and trust them to carve out a schedule that works for them. Keep the channels of communication open in regards to timelines and deliverables and be understanding of the fact that everyone is doing their best right now.

Provide childcare if possible. If there are the means at your company to support parents with safe childcare, subsidised childcare or flexible hours so they can work around family commitments, that can offer real peace of mind for your staff. Especially those who may have limited support networks to turn at the moment.

Ensure good hygiene is taken care of. Safe social distancing policies, hand-washing stations, free masks and alcohol-based hand rubs should all be readily available for employees who do come on-site for work but are returning to their families afterwards.

Reduce financial burdens on families. Covid-19 has put immense pressure on families around Australia and if you can, offer measures such as employment protection, paid sick leave, child benefits and subsidies for employees and particularly those in vulnerable groups.

Don’t penalise women for their decisions. The pandemic has had a significant impact on working mothers, who were already doing it tough. We know that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the Covid-19 crisis than men’s, and the burden of unpaid care is disproportionally carried by women. Rather than judgement, they need even more support.

Have an open door policy. It might be a virtual open door, sure, but it’s important for your employees to feel that they can come to you if they’re struggling, are under pressure and don’t know what to do, or simply need to talk. Creating mental health resources and letting your employees know what’s in place to help them is also critical.

Benefits to your company. Many companies talk the talk but don’t walk the walk when it comes to family-friendly policies – so making sure your corporate culture really lives up to its promises is key. It’s about creating a culture where your employees feel comfortable and safe, and realizing that you play a huge role in supporting the wellbeing of parents in your workplace.

Plus, doing so can only result in a happier, more loyal workforce, higher productivity across the board, and a reputation as the kind of company people want to work for.

Want more tips on becoming a better employer? Download our 2021 New Career Toolkit here.