Working Parents: How to Succeed at Work and at Home




What do working parents want? The ability to have a fulfilling family AND professional life! Working parents are an important talent pool, and leading employers across the U.S. are taking huge strides to cater to this unique employee demographic with supportive parental leave and post maternity leave benefits. It’s not surprising considering that flexibility to balance work and life issues ranks second to compensation as the reason employees stay at a job or leave it, according to recent SHRM data.

This is why organizations across the U.S. are leveraging robust family friendly benefit strategies to attract and retain top talent and remain competitive. Over the last four years, there’s been increases in:

  • The percentage of employers allowing (at least some) employees to return to work gradually after childbirth or adoption (73% in 2012 to 81% in 2016);
  • The percentage of employers allowing (at least some) employees to receive special consideration after a career break for personal/family responsibilities (21% in 2012 to 28% in 2016); and
  • The percentage of employers allowing (at least some) employees to work some of their regular paid hours at home on a regular basis (33% in 2012 to 40% in 2016).

These increases show positive headway in the work-life realm but it’s not always that easy. Many working parents struggle with striking the right balance between career and family, especially women, with some choosing to opt out entirely.

In order to avoid this talent drain, organizations are becoming increasingly innovative with benefit strategies specific to working parents. For example, When Work Works Award winners Ultimate Software offers employees $300 per child, per year, to spend on their children for an extracurricular event of their choice; and at GL group, new parents can bring their babies to work for the first six months and are provided with a monthly child care stipend for the first years. 

How can your organization support better work-life integration? Barbara Palmer, Founder of Your 4th Trimester, a program for parents returning to work after welcoming a child says, "We need to invest in employees and support them through the transitions they face throughout their careers, including becoming working parents.” She offers these tips for employers:

1.  Create a supportive and inclusive work environment. Working parents want to succeed on and off the job - and can be successful at both.  It is easy to project that working parents, especially mothers, wouldn't want to (insert: travel, take on new business, go for a promotion), but the easiest way to find out is to ask.  

2.  Support flexible work arrangements that work for the business and employees.  The focus should be on productivity, not face time or locale.  A well thought out flexible work arrangement such as flex time or telework, can lead to greater focus and productivity.   

3.  Be innovative with career paths. Greatness can be achieved by going up or going deep.  There can be many ways to define success.  Discuss each employee's personal success goals to determine if their vision is up the ladder or deep in a subject area. 

4.  Be flexible, boundaries may need to change. Working parents may need to shift their boundaries (move a working dinner to a working lunch, put in time after addressing her family or child care needs), but they have a high capacity and efficiency to get the job done.  Support these shifts knowing that you are exhibiting trust and support for this highly valuable work sector.

What are your organization's best practices for helping working parents succeed at work? Tell the story, apply for the When Work Works Award! - The When Work Works Award is part of SHRM’s national initiative that helps employers become more successful by transforming the way they view and adopt effective and flexible workplaces. The award application window is open now – May 25, 2018. For more information and to apply click HERE.



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