Working parents are like plate spinners at a carnival: They juggle their children’s school schedules and activities while balancing their own work deadlines, attending conferences, and sneaking in the occasional shower.
In 2013, 88.2 percent of families with children under 18 had at least one parent in the workforce, which means that employers seeking to recruit and retain top talent must start catering to families engaged in this balancing act.
Focusing on the working parent with benefits such as flexible work arrangements and paid parental leave helps all parents achieve a better work-life balance and keep employees happier and more engaged at work.
It’s not just about mum
Although workplace flexibility started as a solution for working mothers, it’s an issue that affects all your employees. In fact, positioning a flexible work schedule as an exclusive perk for mums can actually backfire and cause resentment among other employees. They may think flexible work arrangements mean different things to different people or that certain employees get preferential treatment because they have families.
Instead of singling out working mums in your company, consider how a flexible workplace can benefit other employees.
The division of household labor has changed a lot in the last few decades, with many fathers taking on the primary caregiver role for their children. In a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 50 percent of fathers said they find it difficult to juggle work responsibilities and family life, so make sure you’re sending the message that your company values all working parents.
Flexibility is important for employees without children, too. Those who wish to observe religious or cultural holidays or get more involved in activities outside the office — such as volunteer work, sports, or community events — will also appreciate the ability to work during the hours that fit their schedules best.
Tips for creating a flexible culture for all
It’s one thing to put flexible work policies in place, but you also have to create a culture that values a healthy work-life balance and makes working mums and dads feel comfortable taking time to care for their kids.
- Focus on the family. Encourage flexible work arrangements, and offer parental leave that includes maternal, paternal, and adoption leave.
- Lift the stigma. As long as employees are producing results, they should be trusted to manage their time. Encourage employees to use their flextime so working parents don’t feel guilty taking the afternoon off to volunteer at school or take their children to doctors’ appointments.
- Invest in wellness programs. Provide a comprehensive health plan and corporate gym membership, hold classes on fitness or stress reduction, and organize health days with free flu shots, vaccinations, and preventive exams.
- Provide employee assistance programs. Include childcare services, adoption assistance, and personal finance resources.
- Keep it inclusive. Make an effort to create perks and resources for employees who are not eligible to use maternity leave or other parental benefits. Provide coupons for restaurants or movie theaters, or give employees an allowance for health or educational pursuits.
The rewards of flexibility
Offering parent-friendly perks doesn’t just benefit your employees and their families. There’s a slew of evidence to suggest that flexible work arrangements alsoincrease employee retention and end up paying for themselves in the long run.
Our company employs a great blend of working parents and individuals without children, and we’ve worked to develop a culture that supports a healthy work-life balance for all. Working mums and dads are encouraged to attend their kids’ events using flextime. Some of our working parents opt to start and end their workday two hours early, which allows them to be home with their kids after school. One of our employees without children also starts her workday early so she can get home in time to walk her dog before dark.
This type of flexible, inclusive culture is incredibly rewarding. When you acknowledge the importance of your employees’ personal lives, they feel valued and understood. And knowing that the company supports their family keeps them productive and focused on giving their best effort while they’re at work.
Originally from Turkey, Zeynep Ilgaz and her husband co-founded Confirm BioSciences and TestCountry, where Ilgaz serves as president. Confirm BioSciences is committed to being on the cutting edge of offering new, service-oriented drug testing technologies.
By Zeynep Ilgaz
Originally published: 30th June 2014