How to Make Your Workplace Friendly for Parents

A family-friendly work culture benefits everyone. Here’s how your small business can support expectant and working parents.

How to Make Your Workplace Friendly for Parents

A family-friendly work culture benefits everyone. Here’s how your small business can support expectant and working parents.

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Illustration by Weronika Mikulska

North America has made leaps and bounds when it comes to improving conditions for working parents. However, we are still far behind the majority of the world and have plenty of room for improvement.

Times are changing for how companies design their organizations. With nearly half of American families having 2 parents working full time, companies that are not prioritizing making the office more “parent-friendly” are missing out on an opportunity to attract a massive portion of the already tight labor market.

We’ve seen great strides as companies lean into the conversation in an effort to support their working parents. If you’re designing your company culture and wondering how to create a space that is more inviting for parents, here are a few points to consider.

Create family-friendly work policies

Larger organizations, like Deloitte, provide in-house coaching to support soon to be parents and managers of working parents to support the transition.

Intel has created a “parent reintegration program,” which allows new parents to return to work on a part-time basis as they reintegrate back into their teams. Beyond having the program in place, they offer incentives for new parents who actually take advantage of the program to encourage participation.

Companies that are not prioritizing making the office more “parent-friendly” are missing out on an opportunity to attract a massive portion of the already tight labor market.

If you’re a small business owner without a huge budget, there are still ways to create meaningful programs. For example, you could encourage and support the creation of employee resource groups (ERGs) dedicated to new and expecting parents. This way, employees feel comfortable leaning on one another throughout the process.

Re-evaluate your parental leave policies

While it’s crucial to have a strong paid parental leave policy in place, the work does not stop there.

A study by Deloitte highlights that people fear that taking their parental leave will cause them to be judged by their colleagues and fall behind in their careers. In the study, “57 percent of men felt that exercising their parental leave right would be perceived as a lack of commitment to their jobs.”

Companies like JPMorgan have taken the heat for discouraging fathers from taking their parental leave, ending in a $5 million settlement.

Encouraging parental leave needs to be part of the culture for both mothers and fathers, and people must feel like they will be supported by their employer if they choose to start a family.

Embed workplace flexibility into the culture

For many professionals, their reality involves being part of a dual-career couple, where both parents work full time. This means that there might not be anyone to hand the kids off to when a work emergency hits. Flexible work arrangements are becoming more important and necessary to make it possible for working parents to have a career while raising their families.

When it comes to flexibility, formal 9-to-5 schedules are one area that can be re-evaluated. Many organizations now allow their people to make their contributions to their team and work on their own time.

This allows them to work wherever they are and puts working parents in a position to deliver their best results. In order to create this kind of working style, managers need to focus on the results delivered by employees and ditch the culture of clock watching and optics of being “in the office.”

By allowing flexibility, you’ll be able to retain your talent as your company grows. According to a survey by Flexjobs, many parents indicate leaving their jobs sooner than they would have liked as their companies or roles were too inflexible to accommodate their needs as a working parent. 

Having a flexible culture that allows regular “work from home” ensures that employees don’t need to have an uncomfortable conversation with their managers every time they need to stay home for personal reasons (doctors appointments, sick family members, etc.).

Business owners need to lead with trust in order for this to be a top-down part of the culture. They also have to invest in proper video conferencing technology to keep teams connected virtually.

Retain talent as your company grows

By allowing flexibility, you’ll be able to retain your talent as your company grows. According to a survey by Flexjobs, many parents indicate leaving their jobs sooner than they would have liked as their companies or roles were too inflexible to accommodate their needs as a working parent.

Beyond policies and programs, your physical working environment should be appropriate for mothers returning to work. For example, women need a private and suitable space to pump and the office should be designed with that in mind.

Is your small business designed in a way that supports its working parents? Tell us what you’re doing this year to make a difference.

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