11 Practical Ways to Support Working Parents on your Team

At a time when 65% of people are actively looking to change jobs (1), we simply can’t afford to take our people for granted. And research tells us that the parents on our teams are more likely to resign this year than the non-parents (2). So how exactly can we keep these parents from walking out the door? Compensation certainly has a role to play, but it's largely about giving them the support they need to effectively balance work and family.

In many cases, parents have the same needs as everybody else on your teams. But there are also unique challenges that arise from balancing work with raising children, which form the inspiration for this piece. I won’t lie to you - some of the policies on this list are difficult to get right. For the best results, we suggest performing an accessibility audit of your company from a parent’s perspective, and involving the parents on your team in the process, remembering to keep the needs of non-parents in mind, too.

In order for any of these policies to yield results, they have to work for everyone, not just the parents on your teams.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, rather a framework for getting started. So let’s dive in!

Frankli supports flexible and asynchronous work and connects dispersed teams.

11 Practical Ways to Support Working Parents on Your Team

1. Ask Parents about their Challenges

Every working parent has a unique set of needs and challenges - what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. Their access to childcare; the ages of their children; whether they have multiple children; whether their children have special needs; whether they have a co-parent; whether they have family support; all these factors affect how their work integrates with family life. So before you bring in policies to benefit working parents, start a dialogue with the parents on your team, and spend some time figuring out what would best serve them.

You might try;

  • Inviting parents to take part in a survey - this is easily done in a couple of minutes through Frankli
  • Prompting managers to check in with parents through 1:1 meetings - automating scheduling and providing talking point templates through Frankli speed up this process
  • Hosting information-gathering sessions with groups of parents

Some questions to ask;

  1. What challenges are you facing in balancing work and family responsibilities?
  2. What needs to change? What support do you need that you're not currently getting?

2. Offer Parental Leave

No list of parent supports would be complete without parental leave, which, simply put, offers parents the opportunity to spend more time with their children. It comes in many forms - paid or unpaid, age-based or open to all parents - and it can actually have a positive effect on the parent’s work when they return. One recent study connected paternity leave to higher levels of motivation and fulfilment (3). It’s important to note, though, that simply offering parental leave isn't always enough. Respondents in the same study on paternity leave noted that other factors were critical to their decision to take leave, namely work culture that encourages taking leave, policy support, and unaffected promotion timelines (3).

3. Promote Flexible Working

The traditional working day clashes pretty perfectly with the waking hours of most children. When parents are allowed to choose their hours, or even shift them around slightly, the impact on their personal and professional lives can be profound. A flexible schedule makes it easier, or, in some cases, possible, to manage childcare, and it also allows parents to spend more time with their children. But it’s crucial that it works on a practical level. Flexible work arrangements are of little use to parents if Team Meeting continues to be held at 5.30pm every afternoon. Flexible working needs to be combined with support for asynchronous work, easily done through a performance platform like Frankli, and a culture of trust and communication across teams.

4. Facilitate Remote Work

The data tells us that most employees would like to work from home for at least part of the working week, but those with children, particularly children under 5 years old, would like more time at home than non-parents (4). In one study, 61% of parents said that they wanted to work remotely full-time (5). We can’t assume that every parent is happy to work remotely but it's clear that facilitating remote work can help us retain key members of staff. As with flexible work, remote work can only be successful if it can be supported with a culture of trust and communication. Software that supports dispersed teams is a must, too - think tools like Slack, Zoom and Frankli.

5. Focus on Outcomes, not Inputs

When leaders and managers place importance on things like hours logged at a desk, or attendance at social events, working parents are often put at a disadvantage. This is just one of many reasons why it pays to focus on outcomes through strategic goal-setting. A platform like Frankli, that supports goal alignment through OKRs across teams, is invaluable for this. It allows working parents, and their managers, to understand the value these employees bring to the company, even when illness strikes or childcare issues arise.

6. Build a Healthy Work Culture

Creating a culture of trust, open communication and feedback is important for everyone on your teams, not just parents. The same goes for encouraging a healthy work-life balance, and putting wellbeing supports in place for your people. We’ve included this one simply because the other supports on our list couldn’t exist without it.

7. Create a Return-to-Work Program

Returning from work after the birth of a child, or indeed any other period of extended leave associated with family responsibilities, is hard. The data tells us that enthusiasm for work among people returning from maternity leave plummets after just one day back (6). This reveals a huge need for return-to-work programs. They might include line manager training, visibility of other employees who've taken extended leave, coaching or buddy systems connecting working parents across teams, the option of a phased return, and/or the cultural belief that extended leave is a necessary interlude, rather than an inconvenient disruption. Our one-on-one talking point template is a great starting point - you can encourage your managers to use it for dedicated check-ins with returning employees.

8. Normalise the Experience of Parenting while Working

Economist Emily Oster writes that working parents often feel the need to hide or minimise the evidence of their children at work, a theory that’s unfortunately supported in data (7). “Fight the culture that encourages secret parenting by… not parenting secretly,” she advises. “Eventually, your colleagues will adapt.” If leaders can encourage parents of all genders, particularly at senior level, to mention their children, even in passing, it creates a more supportive culture for everyone. So ask your people about their kids. And if you’re finishing work early today to attend your daughter’s basketball game, say so.

9. Offer Clarity on Company Policies

It’s great to have policies in place to support working parents. It’s even better to clearly communicate them to your people, whether that means writing them down in black and white in an employee handbook, or discussing them openly in meetings. If people have to go searching for information on these policies, they’re less likely to avail of them. It can be quite daunting to ask questions like, “Can I work different hours during the school holidays?” or “Can I use sick days when my child is sick?" Give them the answers first.

10. Have a Streamlined Process for Logging Time Off

I still get flustered when I think about the mandatory process for logging time off in a previous company. It took 20 minutes on a good day, close to an hour with a sick baby on my knee. Kids get sick a lot, they have more holidays from school and daycare than the average employee, and childcare arrangements often fall through. Having a clear and simple system in place for logging unexpected time off may seem like a small detail, but it can have a significant impact on your people’s stress levels.

11. Broaden the Definition of Working Parents to Caregiver

Working parents may be top of mind for most leaders, but this description only covers a percentage of employees with pressing family needs. Other groups to consider include people who care for older loved ones, those with chronic illness, or those with additional needs, and extended family members who serve as primary caregivers for children. The list goes on. If it's worth putting supports in place for the parents on your team, it's worth doing the same for these employees.

Frankli helps support the working parents on your team through effortless goal alignment and communication channels. Speak to a member of our team to find out more.

60-Second Version: 11 Practical Ways to Support Working Parents on Your Team

1. Ask Parents about their Challenges. Through surveys, one-on-one meetings or information gathering sessions, start a dialogue with the parents on your team to find out which policies would best serve their needs.

2. Offer Parental Leave. This might be paid or unpaid, age-based or open to all parents. Combine this with unaffected promotion timelines and a culture that encourages taking leave (3).

3. Promote Flexible Working. Make sure you're also supporting asynchronous work, easily done through a performance platform like Frankli.

4. Facilitate Remote Work. Combine this with a culture of trust and communication, and software that supports dispersed teams - think tools like Slack, Zoom and Frankli.

5. Focus on Outcomes, not Inputs. A platform like Frankli, that supports goal alignment through OKRs across teams, allows working parents, and their managers, to understand the value they bring to the company.

6. Build a Healthy Work Culture. The other policies on our list simply can't exist without one.

7. Create a Return-to-Work Program for those Returning from Extended Family Leave. This might include facilitating coaching with other parents and dedicated check-ins with managers - our one-on-one talking point template is a great starting point.

8. Normalise the Experience of Parenting while Working. When parents at all levels mention their children in work, even in passing, it creates a more supportive culture for everyone.

9. Offer Clarity on Company Policies. This could mean writing them down in black and white in an employee handbook, or discussing them openly in meetings.

10. Have a Streamlined Process for Logging Time Off. Don't add to what might already be a stressful situation.

11. Broaden the Definition of Working Parents to Caregiver. Other groups to consider include people who care for older loved ones, those with chronic illness, or those with additional needs.

Frankli helps support the working parents on your team through effortless goal alignment and communication channels. Speak to a member of our team to find out more.

1. PwC Pulse Survey: Next in work. 2. Global Workforce, Parents Are Quitting in Search for Work-Life Balance. 3. McKinsey, A fresh look at paternity leave: Why the benefits extend beyond the personal. 4. McKinsey, What employees are saying about the future of remote work. 5. FlexJobs, Working Parents Want Remote Work. 6. DCU Business School, Re-Engaging Talent Post- Maternity Leave: Enablers and Barriers to Positive Reintegration. 7. Emily Oster, The Atlantic, End the Plague of Secret Parenting.

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