Creating a Parent Friendly Workplace Beyond COVID-19

Whatever your business, there is a good chance that many of your team are parents of children under 18. Here at Rugare Gomo, half our staff (including myself!) are working mothers. 

Like many companies, we are currently all working from home to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19. But for our team, working around the needs of children was also the norm pre-virus. Our company celebrates children in our day-to-day working lives, often including them in meetings both online and face-to-face. 

Other companies with a more traditional approach to business are quickly adapting to a more child-friendly way of operating. This is good news – balancing work and family life has historically led to large amounts of stress and job dissatisfaction for parents, affecting job performance. So creating a more inclusive workplace, now and in the future, advantages the company, as well as staff. 

Here are 4 areas in which you can support parents in your workplace, both during this time and beyond: 

INCLUSIVE WORKPLACE POLICIES 

Many companies include being family-friendly in their visions and values, but that doesn’t always translate to day-to-day operations! Verbalising commitment to family in core business documents shows employees that it’s a priority.  

Perhaps you already have policies that can be tweaked, or maybe it’s time to create some from scratch. 

If your company already has family policies in place, how healthy are they? Ask yourself the following: 

  • Are they up to date? It can be beneficial to review your policies and procedures regularly to ensure that they continue to reflect your desired company culture. 
  • Are they a part of induction and training?  If so, they’ll help set the standard for how new hires operate.  
  • Are they easily accessible?  Or do employees have to navigate through a sea of old folders and documents to locate them? 

ONSITE UTILITIES AND SERVICES 

Let’s face it, some business environments are more kid-friendly than others. While a toddler in a forklift might make for cute pictures, we’d recommend keeping them away from construction sites as a general rule!  

Nevertheless, there are many ways companies can make their spaces more inclusive for parents and/or their children: 

  • Onsite Childcare 

Many companies, like Boeing and Disney, have childcare on site. This is a great option for larger companies with large amounts of staff. 

  • Modified Office Spaces 

Software company Wildbit goes one step further; they designed their offices with kids in mind, welcoming them into the space

  • Safe Spaces for Breastfeeding/Pumping 

For mothers of infants returning to work, feeding their children can present a logistical nightmare! Having a dedicated area can go a long way to removing those barriers breastfeeding parents face. See the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s guide to creating a breastfeeding-friendly workplace here

  • Other Amenities 

Highchairs, change tables – any parent knows that the list of equipment for children is endless! Providing some of these where appropriate can keep your space not only more parent-friendly, but safer and more hygienic as well. 

So whether it’s childcare, space to breastfeed, or highchairs in the break room – consider how your workplace can safely accommodate in its unique situation. It’s not just your employees who benefit either. Your clients or customers, many parents themselves, may appreciate this added convenience! 

FLEXIBLE/REMOTE WORK OPTIONS 

Remote work used to just be for start-ups and tech companies. Now, as a result of the disruption caused by COVID-19, many companies are turning to online work to reduce the spread of infection and reduce overheads. However, there are more than just health benefits to online work; employees also report being happier and are more productive.  

The benefit to parents is that they can structure work around the needs of their families, instead of being confined to a rigid 9-5 schedule. 

Luckily, there are plenty of tools which can make remote work easy for you and your team: 

  • Video conferencing tools like ZoomTeams, and Hangouts Meet can be used to facilitate group meetings and workshops. Many of our meetings take place via Zoom, and the parents on our team are completely free to attend to children during the call. 
  • Productivity and project management tools like Asana, Wrike, Trello, Flow and Monday can help track work and keep projects moving forward. 
  • Apps like Slack and Discord can aid in communication and create a sense of office community.  

PARENTAL LEAVE, PERSONAL AND CARER’S LEAVE 

Encourage staff to take their entitled time off, and lead by example. Dads particularly lag in parental leave taken, especially here in Australia. Take a leaf out of Mark Zuckerberg’s book and be the change you wish to see! 

It’s also important to note here that with children come a host of other commitments – school events, holidays and extra-curriculars. Be sensitive to these, and create a culture that celebrates and supports these necessary parts of family life. 

IN SUMMARY 

 As you can see, cultivating a parent and child friendly culture doesn’t have to be complicated. And the benefits to employees are matched with the benefits to your overall business goals.  

Not only does it encourage gender diversity, which we know links to better business performance and decision making, but it leads to better employee well-being, too.  

Greater employee well-being results in greater productivity, greater company outcomes, and – loyalty. Which, in this fast-paced twentieth-century world is hard to come by.  

HANDY RESOURCES: 

UNICEF  Family-Friendly Policies PDF

Australian Breastfeeding Association Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace program

Forbes How Encouraging Time Off And Flexible Hours Increases Team Productivity

 Dr Lindsay McMillan OAM, Reventure Ltd. Workplace Wellbeing PDF

Sonder Safe How does workplace health and wellbeing impact employee retention?

 Fairwork Work and family

This article was written by Rowena Coleborn and first published on Rugare Gomo’s website at www.rugaregomo.com

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This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Legally Yours Pty Ltd accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.

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