Working parents are the backbone of the labor market. For that reason, as ‘return to the office’ plans are put into motion, employers should be making sure that they align with the expectations of these employees. Based on Vivvi’s recent survey, Employers’ failure to help their working parents could have huge implications for their workforce. Below, we will look at how employers can adapt to a hybrid work model that supports working parents.
Working Parents Are Advocating For Themselves. Here’s What They Want
Companies have been emphasizing the phrase hybrid work model in many conversations surrounding a return to the office over the last few months. As part of envisioning a new workplace culture going forward, offering flexible working arrangements seems to be a trend that many businesses want to be part of.
Yet, what exactly is the definition of a ‘hybrid work model’? And is every company using the same definition? These are some of the questions that working parents are looking to have answered as it is these employees that will benefit from this working model the most.
As we’ve mentioned previously, working parents were hit hard during the pandemic. The closure of child care centers and schools presented parents with unforeseen challenges when it came to remote work. This sector of the labor market also felt the most vulnerable in terms of ensuring that they kept a stable income so they could provide for their families.
However, as the pandemic continued, working parents realized that the arrangements they had prior no longer suited the lifestyle they always had. As a result of this, working parents are advocating for the changes they would like to see their companies adapt so that they can be supported better in the future. It’s the responsibility of employers to make sure they are up to the task of responding to these needs correctly.
What changes are working parents advocating for? As companies begin to reopen offices, working parents – especially work-from-home moms – are mainly looking for: flexible work arrangements that support work-life balance.
Company Strategies to Support Working Parents Return to the Office
As companies strategize ways to ensure that all of their employees feel supported amid a return to the office, they need to approach the hybrid work model with working parents in mind. A recent study by PwC has suggested that up to 55% of employees would prefer to be remote at least three days a week. The very same survey found that 79% of employees were able to manage family-related matters more effectively while working from home.
Up until now, the return to the office has largely been driven by company executives – not employees – wanting to maintain a strong company culture. However, the remote work model has proven very successful both in terms of employee productivity and engagement.
While a return to the office is inevitable, if not already happening, employers can no longer ignore the fact that the pre-COVID 19 workplace was not flexible enough for working parents. It is risky to presume that what worked in the past will work now for employees. Employers need to give employees a voice in deciding on working arrangements.
1. Prevent Communication Barriers
Understandably, some of your employees may request that they work remotely on certain days of the week to accommodate picking their child up from child care or so that they can prioritize a family matter over commuting. This isn’t a weakened commitment to the company, they purely need to make their working schedule fit their life circumstances.
As you adopt a hybrid approach to returning to the workplace, you may have two teams at all times: one that is remote and one that’s on-site. Although shifting everyone to online meetings in the last year was relatively easy, now you will need to put systems in place to make sure that those employees working from home are not left feeling on the “outside.”
Putting simple measures in place such as implementing wall-mounted monitors in conference rooms for all video calls and keeping all communications via email can prevent any communication barriers. This will allow working parents to always feel part of the team even if they are not physically in the office.
2. Respect Boundaries and Set Expectations
The pandemic did open the eyes of many employers to the fact that their employees aren’t just simply an employee – they are also mothers, fathers, and caregivers. For this reason, many companies enforced work/life boundaries by using various online scheduling mechanisms.
Allowing your employees to block “private” time in their work schedules or to determine when they were free for work requests meant that they could organize their work schedules around family obligations. This flexibility meant that parents could not only complete their work tasks but also keep up with their family responsibilities too.
Hybrid work models should offer a flexitime option to support how working parents manage their family obligations. Many companies find that implementing core hours where all employees must be online or available for meetings allows employees to have more of a say in how they allocate their time each day.
Employers should implement this strategy with the expectation that both executives and employees respect it.
3. Provide Learning and Development Opportunities
All employees, especially working parents, appreciate when a company invests in their career growth from a training and development perspective. This is not going to change anytime soon. Employers should look at leveraging the fact that their employees will be working part-time from home by investing in online training opportunities.
Online training programs that allow employees to watch training videos and participate in online discussion boards in their own time are being seen as vital offerings as part of employee benefit programs. Not only can employers keep track of their employees progress, but it also means that when your employees are in the office this time can always be kept for in-person meetings and conversations.
As the workplace evolves, this will inevitably require the skills of your employees to evolve too. Offering robust learning and development opportunities as part of a hybrid work model will ensure that all employees are given the chance to excel in their jobs.
4. Train Managers Effectively
A successful hybrid work model that adequately supports working parents will largely depend on how effective your company’s department managers are. Gone are the days when managers can always count on coordinating with their teams on-site. While your management team would have got a taste of what it takes to manage remote workers during the pandemic through a trial by fire, managing a hybrid workforce will require a new style of management.
It is the responsibility of C-suite executives to make sure that department managers have received the training that they need to lead both on-site and remotely at the same time. Smaller moments of connection will be much more impactful to working parents in a hybrid workplace. These employees will be looking for more frequent check-ins and progress reports from their managers.
Due to this, companies should make sure that managers are effectively skilled in more nuanced aspects of management such as providing feedback and being empathetic.
Embracing the Hybrid Work Model: Why It Will Benefit Both Employees and the Company
Many agree that the hybrid approach to returning to the office will level the playing field for working parents. Being provided with flexible work arrangements alongside other benefits such as learning opportunities and corporate-sponsored child care solutions will undoubtedly benefit all parties involved.
Flexible work supports a truer representation of what work/life balance should be. As working parents will no longer feel like they have to balance it all, it will lead to several benefits for both companies and the employee such as:
- Increased productivity levels
- Better collaboration and workplace relationships
- Improved employer-employee trust
- Increased employee retention levels
Although there will be some challenges that will need to be met while initially returning to the office in a hybrid capacity, ensuring that all of your employees – especially working parents – have what they need in order to manage all aspects of their lives effectively will always be a smart business choice in the long run.
Vivvi: Working with Employers to Support Working Parents
Vivvi partners with employers of all sizes to make high-quality full-time and backup child care more accessible and affordable. As your company transitions back to the office, we can work with you to provide flexible corporate-sponsored child care solutions across our campuses, in-home, in-office, and via virtual care. As an early learning child care provider, our team meets the needs of your business and your employees where you are.
Visit our employer page to learn more about the benefits and ROI our child care offerings have provided to businesses like yours.