It’s harder to complain about who your company’s benefits do, and don’t actually benefit if they’re balanced, different, and customized by each worker.
Here's what you need to know about balancing benefits among employees who are parents and those who aren't:
- Difficult PTO approval policies result in employees questioning the value of having pto at all.
- It's ok to allow people to choose from a menu of benefits options.
- Encouraging employees to use their PTO results in a healthier and happier workforce.
The pandemic shined a bright light on the challenges of workers being able to balance work and parenting — especially when everything is happening all at once at home.
Parents are certainly dealing with a lot, from remote learning to intermittent school and daycare closures. So much so that the majority of the 1,100 parents who responded to a FlexJobs survey said that childcare has impacted their work in some way during the pandemic.
And the survey shows …
Twenty-one percent of the respondents reduced their hours, and 16% quit their job. Many have plans to return to the workforce in the future. Why? Their frustrations range from everything from:
- An inability to unplug after work to distractions
- Unreliable WiFi
- Technology problems
As companies have adapted to this new world of working remotely, it’s no wonder that many have chosen to do the same with their benefit offerings. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said that companies should put a greater emphasis on childcare benefits.
What can you do about bringing balance to this challenge?
But what about workers who aren’t parents? It’s not fair to put one group’s needs in front of another’s. Yet it is a fact that parents are objectively facing tremendous hurdles in the remote working world. So, how can companies meet the new needs of working parents while ensuring equity across the company?
There are no hard and fast answers, but here are some tips and tricks that should help.
Focus on flexibility
Simply put, flexible processes benefit everyone. Any flexibility you can build into work schedules, PTO, and more, the easier it is for your employees to find the work-life balance that works for them.
With flexible PTO, people can take time off for whatever reason they’d like, whether that’s taking a pet to the vet or watching a child whose school is canceled yet again. Families aren’t the rigid, nuclear structures that they used to be. Today, families include:
- And more
A flexible PTO schedule allows workers to take time off to do caregiving work to anyone in their family, however they conceive of it.
Opt for reason-neutral policies
The less you require a reason for time off, flex days, PTO, and the like, the more it can be used to accommodate any worker’s specific needs. Child-related or not. Once kids go back to school after another recent closure, a parent might just need a day to themselves.
Or, other workers who have been covering for parents who are out of the office might need some time off to recalibrate as well. When you don’t require a reason, people are more able to take time off they need because they don’t have to worry about being judged for their reason.
Ensure all your workers are encouraged to use their benefits
No matter how reason-free and flexible your policies are, if your employees aren’t actually able to use the benefits afforded to them, it’s all a moot point.
If you see that people on your team aren’t taking vacation days, encourage them to do so. Not only should you encourage and remind your employees and teammates to take time off that’s afforded to them, but it also helps to make the process as easy as possible.
If someone has to jump through a ton of bureaucratic hoops just to get a day or two off, it’s easy to see how the work doesn’t seem worth it. It can also be problematic if your company isn’t able to accommodate time off requests on the fly. As the pandemic has made crystal clear, things can come up quickly. And when they do, people need to be able to quickly take the time off that they need and to be able to actually use it.
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Track outcomes rather than process
One way to help take the stress off your workers who are trying to balance the number of responsibilities they’re juggling these days is to measure outcomes rather than processes.
What you really need are effective employees — does it really matter what it takes for them to get there (within reason, of course)? If someone feels like taking time off or working hours that aren’t entirely aligned with the rest of the team are going to cost them when review time comes around, they’re going to shy away from it.
So, the more you focus on outcomes and outputs rather than processes or face-time on Zoom, the more you can help your workers find success in this new world of work.
Try letting employees customize their perks
One way to deal with the gap in the needs of parents and non-parents is to lean into it. Maybe working parents want more flexible time off, but non-parents want pet insurance or discounts on their gym memberships. Perhaps parents don’t care about being able to work remotely from far-flung locales, but non-parents are dying to make the most of the opportunities that remote work offers.
If there’s a way you can let your employees decide which perks matter most to them, why not take that route? It’s harder to complain about who your company’s benefits do, and don’t actually benefit if they’re different and customized by each worker.
Change is hard but worth retaining valuable employees
Of course, this approach requires a little more effort than blanket benefits that everyone receives. However, you could offer a menu of options and have employees complete the selection process just once per year to minimize the effort.
At the end of the day, when it comes to balancing benefits between parents and non-parents, a little innovation can go a long way.