Many employees are parents first. Find out how you can create a parent friendly workplace and improve productivity among your parent employees.
Employees have many labels both in and out of the workplace: manager, director, contributor, parent, and partner, among others. For employees that are also parents, their job as a parent typically takes precedence over their role in an organisation. In order to acquire more employees and improve productivity, many companies are looking for ways to create a parent-friendly workplace.
What constitutes a parent-friendly work environment? Parent-friendly workplaces provide policies and benefits to support parents in both their personal and professional lives, encouraging a better work-life balance. While this sounds good on paper, it can be difficult for employers to implement in their own businesses.
Benefits to offer for a parent-friendly workplace
To make this easier for employers, we examine six benefits organisations can provide to create a parent-friendly workplace.
Offer onsite daycare or a daycare stipend
If you require employees to work from the office, you need to help them offset some of the costs they could avoid if they were working from home, like childcare. Some businesses opt to provide onsite daycare, while others include childcare stipends in their benefits packages. If you opt for a stipend, you’ll need to make sure it takes current childcare costs into account, and you may have to increase it each year to account for inflation.
Daycare for a single child can cost parents an average of $11,752 per year. Considering the median income in the United States is only about $31,133 before taxes based on 2019 US Census data, many parents can’t afford to work and pay for childcare, especially if they have more than one child. Instead, two-parent families often opt for one parent to stay home with their children while the other works. Single-parent households, however, don’t have the same luxury and must look for alternative solutions for childcare if their salary can’t cover it.
Employers must offset these high childcare costs in order to increase the size of the labor pool. Not only will you have more candidates for your open roles, but your parent employees can also be more productive when they aren’t stressed out about how they’ll pay for their child’s daycare that month. This benefit can also increase the diversity of your workforce, providing more opportunity for single parents.
Allow remote work and flexible schedules
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the ability of employees to remain productive even when working from home and actually increased productivity in some cases. Now, many employers have opted to make remote work permanent in order to save money on office expenses (rent, utilities, etc.) and because they’ve found their employees prefer it.
Additionally, remote work is also a great benefit for parents because they spend less time commuting and less money on childcare, leading to happier, less-stressed employees. And happier employees are more productive and easier to retain. While employees can’t perform some jobs from home (manufacturing, healthcare, etc.), if your employees can reasonably work from home without much upheaval, you should let them.
In addition to remote work, you should also consider allowing your employees to work flexible schedules. Not everyone provides their best work on a strict 9-5 schedule, and parents especially may have trouble adhering to such rigidity. School doesn’t follow that schedule, and sports and club events may not either.
You should allow employees the freedom to schedule their days in a way that makes the most sense for them. Maybe they need a later start, so they can take their kids to school or a break in the afternoon to pick them up. While you may require employees to be online for some meetings, as long as they get all their work done on time and with the quality you expect, it shouldn’t matter when they do it.
If you really want to promote a family-friendly workplace, consider instituting a four-day workweek. Employees will get an extra day each week to handle errands, spend time with family, or let their mind and body rest, and you’ll likely keep the same level of productivity or potentially increase it.
Provide paid parental leave
Parental leave is a crucial benefit for new parents, whether or not they actually gave birth. They need time to bond with their new child and adjust to the changes this new member of their family will bring. And if they did give birth, they’ll need time to rest, so their body can fully recover before they jump back into their day-to-day work.
While the law may not require you to provide paid parental leave, your workplace isn’t truly parent-friendly if you don’t. Forcing a parent to take unpaid leave or come back to work too early causes unnecessary stress and may lead to them quitting. At the very least, they’ll resent your treatment of them, and either their productivity will drop or they’ll start looking for other employment.
Parental leave should be easy to plan for because the parent-to-be should know approximately when their leave should start and can train someone to take over their duties in their absence. Start the training as early as possible in case your employee has to take leave early for any reason. If you’re hesitant to offer parental leave because you don’t have anyone to cover for an employee’s absence, then you have a bigger problem on your hands.
You should also make sure that employees have enough paid time off (PTO) that they can care for sick children, be present for major milestones, and take family vacations. PTO is critical for employees to be able to unwind from the stress of their jobs, and without it, your employees won’t be able to stay productive. Many employers are switching to unlimited PTO policies, allowing their employees to take the time they need in order to perform at their peak. If you decide to go this route, make sure you include guidelines about the minimum time off an employee should take.
Don’t micromanage or spy on employees
While a good policy for all employees, you shouldn’t micromanage or spy on parent employees. They’re unlikely to be sitting at their desk every minute of every day, but as long as they’re completing all of their work by the deadline, they shouldn’t have to be. Employees need to feel valued and trusted at work, and getting micromanaged does the opposite.
The most important thing here is to set clear expectations with your employees. If there’s a meeting they have to be present for or a hard deadline for a project, communicate that to them. When employees know what you expect from them, they won’t have to make guesses, and you won’t have to micromanage them to get the work you want.
Your main concern for employees should be whether they’re completing their assignments and are available when you need them. Otherwise, you’re punishing efficiency, making you likely to actually get less and lower-quality work out of your employees.
Include families in healthcare benefits
Health insurance is expensive in the United States, and it’s typically only available through employers. You should provide options for employees to add their partners and children, so they can get coverage for their whole family. Especially in a single-income home, the other parent may not have access to healthcare without their partner’s coverage.
Many employers will cover a portion of their employees’ healthcare, but they may not cover any familial benefits despite offering them. To be a truly parent-friendly workplace, consider covering part of the family insurance plans as well. In fact, approximately 40% of employees would rather have employer-sponsored healthcare coverage than a pay raise. It’s too important for employers to ignore in their benefits package.
You might also consider offering healthcare coverage for procedures that would help employees start a family. Not all insurance covers fertility treatments or in vitro fertilization (IVF), which can both be very expensive without coverage. By adding these benefits, you’re showing your employees that you care about them as more than just workers — you see them as actual people and are invested in their success both personally and professionally.
Use software to streamline workflows
Part of creating a parent-friendly workplace is providing your employees with the tools they need to do their job efficiently and effectively. By streamlining their workflows, employees can complete higher-quality work faster, leaving them with more time to spend with their families. Additionally, manual processes can frustrate employees, leading to added stress and possible burnout.
Project management software can help employees track tasks, due dates, and project progress, allowing them to manage their time effectively. They can keep relevant documents all in one place and collaborate with team members to keep everyone on the same page. Some project management tools also offer automation to reduce the amount of manual work employees have to do, allowing them to focus their time on more important aspects of the project.
A human resource management system (HRMS) can also be beneficial for benefits administration and enrollment. It provides a self-service portal for employees, allowing them to select their own benefits, request time off, and view their pay stubs at their convenience. Not only does this tool make it easier for employees to have their needs met, but it also reduces the number of similar questions your HR team has to answer on a regular basis.
Other tools to consider for creating a parent-friendly workplace include employee engagement software, performance management software, and remote working software. Listen to your employees and take into account what they need when deciding on new software purchases. Ask them which processes are taking too long and where they’d see the most benefit from automation.
Parents make up a large proportion of the workforce, and businesses need to cater to them in order to retain employees and fill their open roles. Non-parent employees will also benefit because they’re getting better working conditions, more benefits, and efficient workflows. Plus, employers will benefit from lower employee turnover and higher productivity.
As an employer, you have a duty to your employees, and you should consider ways to improve their lives both in and out of the workplace. This will help you retain the employees you currently have and encourage them to refer people in their network to help you fill open roles in the future. Plus, you’ll get higher-quality work and more productivity from your employees because they have a better work-life balance and less stress.
Creating a parent-friendly workplace isn’t just good for parents; it’s also beneficial for employers, customers, and non-parent employees. When a big part of your workforce is carrying less stress, they have more mental space to provide better service to your customers and help out their coworkers. To get the most out of your employees, start making changes towards a parent-friendly workplace today.
About the Author
Jenn Fulmer is an award-winning writer for TechnologyAdvice currently based in Easley, SC. Using detailed, research-based content, she helps businesses find the technology they need to maximize their success and protect their data.