Is your workplace parent-friendly?

Traditionally, the onus fell on working parents to achieve work:life balance, with limited company support

By Mohamed Ezz Eldin

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Published: Thu 13 Jun 2024, 8:47 PM

Last updated: Thu 13 Jun 2024, 8:48 PM

Did you know that the United Nations in 2012 established a dedicated international day which recognises and celebrates the role of parents in protecting and nurturing children? The Global Day of Parents on June 1 appreciates all parents for their selfless commitment to children. The role of parents is so fundamental and deeply ingrained in our lives that it often goes unnoticed. However, parenthood is a demanding journey, often requiring a delicate balancing act between work and family life.

Traditionally, the onus fell on working parents to achieve work:life balance, with limited company support. I read recently that the concept was introduced in the 1970s and 80s, as stressed Baby Boomers strove to achieve a balance between career, family and other areas of their lives. The goal was to ensure work didn’t take away too much time from life outside the office, while still maintaining the level of performance required by employers. But many parents found it challenging to accomplish.

In fact, by 2013, over half of working parents had difficulty balancing the responsibilities of their job and family. This was especially true for parents with children under 18, who were more likely to say they always felt rushed. And by 2019, just a few months before workplaces around the world had to adapt to unprecedented lockdowns due to the pandemic, almost half (46 per cent) of employees globally said they were largely dissatisfied with their overall experience at their organisation. This was attributed to organisations failing to meet employee expectations in areas such as work:life balance, growth, and stability.

Fortunately, companies are increasingly recognising the importance of supporting employee needs outside of work, leading to a shift towards work:life integration. In fact, McKinsey research during the pandemic found 80 per cent of respondents enjoyed working from home, with 41 per cent reporting increased productivity. As such, today we see many companies offering flexible work schedules, family leave, and childcare support to employees. The challenge, however, becomes creating a sustainable and inclusive framework for work:life integration that caters to the diverse needs of a modern workforce, including working parents.

Having parent-friendly workplaces

Parent-friendly workplaces are crucial for several reasons. Firstly, they foster a culture of inclusion and support. When employees feel valued and included, they experience higher job satisfaction, increased engagement, and reduced stress. Secondly, parent-friendly workspaces attract top talent, which is crucial in today’s competitive job market. Companies that prioritise family support and flexibility see higher employee engagement and loyalty. Research shows that companies that have better work:life balance experience 25 per cent less turnover and reduce healthcare costs by 50 per cent. Additionally, 85 per cent of companies offering work:life balance programmes report an increase in productivity.

A supportive work environment that includes wellness programmes, flexible work arrangements, and resources for mental health can significantly enhance employee wellbeing, resulting in lower absenteeism and higher productivity.

Essential initiatives

Implementing parent-friendly work initiatives is essential to cultivating an environment that empowers working parents to sufficiently balance their professional and personal responsibilities. Here are some crucial strategies:

1.Flexible working arrangements: Flexible hours and remote work options are fundamental for working parents.

2.Parental leave policies: Providing generous maternity, paternity and adoption leave ensures ample time for bonding with a new child without work pressures.

3.Employee assistance programmes: Employee Assistance Programmes that offer confidential counselling services go a long way in helping employees navigate personal and professional challenges.

4.Career development and support: It's essential that parents don’t feel hindered in their careers due to family responsibilities. Offering tailored career development programmes and mentorship opportunities are crucial to supporting parents in advancing their careers.

5.Wellness spaces: Having a space in the office dedicated to recharging helps with employee wellness and bonding.

Parent-friendly workplaces are not just beneficial for employees; they are essential for the overall health and success of any organisation. By investing in the well-being of working parents, organisations are not just enhancing productivity and employee satisfaction — they are building a more resilient and healthier society.

Eldin is the head of Novartis Gulf

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