Working parents have always faced challenges in the workplace, such as maintaining a work-life balance, avoiding exhaustion, and sustaining career growth. As parents make up 40% of today's workforce1, employers who want to recruit and retain talented moms and dads must create parent-friendly policies to support them—both in and outside the office.
A recent study2 found that companies that fully support working parents have an 86% reduction in parental turnover. So it’s a no-brainer why employers must now put more thought into the needs of their employees with children.
While offering parental leave is an excellent place to start supporting your employees, there are other strategies you can use to reduce parents' stress. Below, we’ll go over the challenges working parents face and five ways you can support them at your organization.
What are some of the challenges that working parents face?
Working parents have many responsibilities, between caring for their children to staying on top of work deadlines. This can create stress in their lives, impacting their health and wellbeing. Employers can relieve some of this stress and better support their employees’ needs by knowing the areas of concern.
A recent study3 by the International Journal of Human Resources Studies determined that working parents' top five challenges are:
- Work-life balance: Balancing home and work is difficult for the entire employee population. But parents also have to juggle childcare responsibilities, school drop-offs and pickups, and other activities, making stressful situations much more likely.
- Stereotyping: Parents often worry that their employer and coworkers will see them as less dedicated to their job due to the time and energy needed to care for their family. This can be felt even more so if the parent has young children as they need more care.
- Exhaustion: Most employees feel exhausted occasionally. But employees that constantly multitask the duties of being a parent, caregiver, and employee can experience prolonged exhaustion, which can negatively impact their physical and mental health.
- Work schedule: As parenting and childcare are often unpredictable, working parents typically need flexible schedules. If they have a rigid work schedule, parents may feel like they can’t get all their work done in the time they have.
- Career growth opportunities: When they’re busy, parents can think they don’t have the time for career growth, even if they want to move up in your organization. Similarly, they may be overlooked for promotions if leadership believes their hectic family life would make it too challenging for them to advance in their role.
Now that we’ve gone over the challenges let’s dive into a few ways you can support the needs of your parent employees.
Five ways you can support working parents at your organization
1. Provide more flexibility
A recent study4 found that 64% of working parents are changing jobs for those with a more flexible work-life balance. Greater flexibility could mean having a hybrid work environment or offering a fully remote setting where parents can work at a location that best suits the needs of their entire family. It could also mean working off-hours or a 9/80 work schedule.
Parents typically have competing obligations when it comes to their children’s schedules. That’s why flexibility with hours and location is the key to attracting and retaining working parents. If your workplace is flexible enough that parents can leave when needed, especially if they have school-aged children, leaders should trust them to meet their deadlines when they return.
Employers that give working parents enough autonomy to blend their childcare responsibilities and professional lives in a way that works for them are more likely to see productivity and performance increase over time.
2. Strengthen your parental leave policy
Many people believe that the Family and Medical Leave Act1 (FMLA) provides a form of parental leave. However, the FMLA only allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or care of a newborn. And even then, the FMLA only applies to companies with 50 or more employees.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that only 23% of civilian workers6 had access to paid family leave. This means that a significant percentage of parents aren’t given the opportunity to bond with their new child.
When designing your parental leave policy, you can offer as much time off as you like. To be inclusive, your policy should dictate that any parent, biological or adoptive, can take leave. Once your policy is set, communicate the policy throughout the employee lifecycle. This means including it in job descriptions and your company handbook for future reference.
You should also have a detailed plan for when your new parents transition back to work. To reduce the chance of stress and burnout, consider starting them back on a part-time schedule initially to get reacclimated. Offering a flexible work schedule and strong support from their manager can help working parents be more engaged and likely to stay at your company.
3. Offer more family-friendly employee benefits
Parents aren’t the only employees looking for extra benefits these days. Many employees believe personalized benefits should also be granted to those who are sole caregivers to family members, such as elderly parents.
Offering benefits that support working parents and caregivers shows that you’re inclusive and care about all your employees’ needs equally. Wages are always important. But providing a variety of employee benefits helps parents plan for their family’s needs in addition to their own.
Some family-friendly benefits to add to your compensation package include:
- Stipends: Stipends are a great way to support working parents and caregivers because they can use them on whatever expenses they choose, such as school tuition, childcare costs, dependent care, family medical expenses, or even remote work supplies.
- Fertility benefits: Offering comprehensive fertility benefits, like IVF treatment, fertility preservation coverage, and diagnostic testing, is critical for organizations striving to be more inclusive, as both men and women can struggle with fertility issues.
- Adoption assistance: Your benefits package should include all types of parents, including LGBTQ+ individuals, single parents, and infertile employees. Offering benefits, like a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), to pay for adoption medical expenses and related fees is a great way to be inclusive.
- Daycare or nanny benefits: Quality childcare can be costly, especially for single parents. A stipend gives working parents financial support to pay for daycare or in-home childcare. Or, if you have the space, you can create on-site access to childcare.
- PTO: A flexible PTO policy allows parents to take a leave of absence for self-care and to spend time with family. You can choose to have an unlimited PTO policy or allow PTO to rollover annually to provide even more flexibility.
- Professional development opportunities: Investing in employee development creates a more motivated and talented workforce. A continuing education fringe benefit can reimburse employees for courses and education-related expenses to help parents gain the necessary skills to advance within your organization.
If you’re unsure what childcare benefits your employees want, you can always survey them to get their feedback before you take action. Surveys not only show your employees that you care and value their opinion, but they work to better aid you in creating a benefits package that will support their and their family’s wellbeing.
4. Prioritize quality over quantity of work
Employees balancing work and family life will remain most committed when the company culture revolves around quality of work versus the quantity of hours worked. The typical 9-to-5 work schedule doesn’t always correlate to high performance, especially for those juggling work while supporting the needs of their families.
Adopting a “quality over quantity” approach supports the needs of individual employees and encourages them to work in a way that’s most effective for them. If your company is remote, try promoting asynchronous work. This allows your employees to complete tasks on their own schedules without requiring them to be online at the same time as their coworkers.
Building a positive workplace culture that focuses on productivity over hours is a great way to improve work-life balance so working parents feel trusted to do their job while still fulfilling their family responsibilities.
5. Create a working parents employee resource group
Many parents rely on other parents in their community for help, advice, and resources—and the workplace is no exception. Employee resource groups (ERGs) are employee-run groups of varying sizes that offer support to a specific demographic within an organization. ERGs are typically grouped by race, gender, or nationality, but they can be based on anything you choose.
Creating a working parent ERG can help your employees with children feel more engaged and connected while strengthening your company culture. It should be a safe space where employees can talk to other parent coworkers, share their thoughts, and feel supported.
The following are some ideas your ERG can try to get started:
- Hold networking events or lunch and learns to help members meet other working parents.
- Organize institutional knowledge-sharing discussions with working parents on best practices for work-life balance.
- Bring guest speakers to present on various topics members are interested in (i.e., mental health, multi-tasking, productivity, etc.)
- Host kid-friendly onsite or online events for working parents to bring their children to as a fun way to relax and destress.
The more you support working parents at your organization and show them you care, the greater your chances are of recruiting and keeping top talent. While the strategies you choose may vary based on your business needs, rethinking your work environment, company culture, work schedule flexibility, and policies are in your and your working parents’ best interest.
If you’re ready to prioritize your working parents by boosting your benefits package, PeopleKeep can help. Contact us, and we’ll set you up with personalized employee benefits that will make it possible for your parents with children to succeed in and outside of the workplace.
Elizabeth Walker is a content marketing specialist at PeopleKeep. She has worked for the company since April 2021. Elizabeth has been a writer for more than 20 years and has written several poems and short stories, in addition to publishing two children’s books in 2019 and 2021. Her background as a musician and love of the arts continues to inspire her writing and strengthens her ability to be creative.