‘Back to school’ season is upon us once again. But, for parents balancing the demands of work alongside the daily school run, the transition back to normality can be more difficult than some might expect.
As HR are often responsible for taking the lead on staff wellbeing, it falls on them to check in with line managers and ensure employees are as equipped as can be to succeed in their roles. And, since working parents take up no small share of the UK workforce, knowing how best to support such a group is imperative to keeping things running smoothly.
Why supporting working parents should be a priority for HR
Apart from the engagement benefits of combatting stress, supporting working parents could have a noticeable impact on attrition. With over 66% of working parents experiencing burnout from balancing work with a busy home life, it’s in HR’s best interests to do what they can to keep these employees on board.
What’s more, ensuring employees’ concerns are listened to is an important part of building a positive company culture. If staff are consistently burnt out, overwhelmed, or struggling under pressure, it’ll be quickly reflected in the overall morale of your organisation – which could cause serious damage long-term.
So, although HR may not be able to directly tackle mid-day calls from school or the morning rush to get out of the house, there are a few things that can be done to help ease the pressure…
1. Make the most of your HR data
To most effectively support any employees with children, it’s first essential to understand the demographics and statistics within your workplace.
Do you know how many parents are on your payroll? Have you spotted higher absence rates at particular times of the year, such as the beginning and end of academic terms? Most modern HR systems offer in-depth data analytics tools that can lend a hand when it comes to understanding your workforce more closely.
With a more detailed view of the specific factors affecting your team, you can create a tailored approach to reaching out and managing their concerns. It can be helpful to keep in mind, too, that working parents will exist across the age, gender, and social demographics of your employees – so being aware of any unconscious bias is key when offering a helping hand.
2. Open up your company communications
For parents at work, an empathetic, communicative culture can go a long way. By opening up a continuous two-way dialogue between employees and their line managers, concerns can be dealt with as they arise – and, importantly, before they grow.
HR can encourage this by making it clear to employees where they should go if issues arise. If an employee has concerns about their work or wellbeing, how and where should they reach out?
Depending on the nature of the issue (and the structure of your organisation), this could be:
- Organising a 1:1 with their line manager,
- Emailing HR directly, or
- Finding time for an informal catch-up.
HR should be aware, too, that no two working parents will have the same concerns. Whether it’s a mental health check-in or a chat about financial stress, be prepared to approach these discussions with empathy and an open mind.
3. Prioritise flexibility
As is perhaps to be expected, being a working parent often comes with an additional dose of unpredictability; whether on account of unwell children, last-minute school closures, or unexpected issues with childcare.
HR can help ease the stress of last-minute changes – both for the employee themselves and for any managers they report to – by exploring ways for staff to quickly, easily, and reliably book sick days, appointments, and annual leave. For example, HR software with a mobile app and, importantly, self-service functionality, can help facilitate this.
In addition, keeping your organisation’s parental leave policy accessible will ensure that employees can find what they need – whenever they need it – without jumping through the hoops of asking around. A shared digital workspace or HR portal, where policies and procedures can be accessed by all employees, could be an effective solution.
4. Keep opportunities accessible
With 30% of working parents claiming they find career advancement more difficult than before having children, it’s crucial that HR ensure training and development opportunities are accessible for all.
Training courses run outside of working hours, for example, or at locations beyond the office, may put parents working around the school run at a disadvantage. Equally, hosting staff socials in the evenings can exclude those relying on childcare – meaning missing out on crucial team bonding opportunities.
While these individual occurrences can appear small, the long-term effects of exclusion can impact working relationships, career development opportunities, and involvement in your company’s culture. By exploring more accessible options – both to training and to social activities – HR can begin to level the playing field and ensure nobody gets left behind.