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How to Support Working Parents Emotional Well-Being in the Workforce

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Working parents are making it clear: they are putting flexibility and their families first – even if this means having to leave their jobs. Burnout levels skyrocketed among employees over the last two years as the pandemic forced many to re-evaluate their work and home lives. 

So, what can employers do to support the emotional well-being of their workforce and win the war on talent? It starts with understanding the state of emotional well-being in the U.S. labor market, and the actual ROI behind implementing holistic child care benefits and support systems. 

Pandemic Parental Burnout and the Need to ‘Do-it-All’ 

Working parents are exhausted. The reality of remote work and child care has led to some of the highest levels of parental burnout in the U.S. labor market, and it has impacted mothers at a disproportionate rate. As many are now well aware, this has resulted in what experts a calling a  ‘she-cession,’ which caused approximately 3 million women to leave their jobs during COVID. 

According to a McKinsey report, parental burnout stems from both home and work-related causes. The home-related causes are obvious: increased pressure of child care responsibilities, financial worries, and isolation from friends and family. On the workplace side, many employees feel that their leaders place more importance on productivity than their emotional well-being. 

Working mothers have to spend approximately eight additional hours a day caring for their children while also showing up at their jobs. This explains why so many women had to cut back on hours or leave their jobs entirely to put their family’s needs first. This burnout is having lasting impacts on their mental and physical health. 

Combine this with an long-time message to parents that they need to ‘do-it-all’ and you have a recipe for disaster. Women often feel pressure to be highly productive at work and in the home. However, these aspects of life are bi-directional; one can easily disrupt the other. Instead of viewing work and home as two separate entities, there needs to be a cultural shift towards an integrated perspective.

Working mothers need to be viewed as employees who are also mothers. It is no longer fair to expect these employees to give 100% in both areas of their lives without support. Failing to do so is proving to impact their emotional well-being and harms your organization in the process. 

Working Parents are Opting to Seek New Job Opportunities

As many employers are aware, the Great Resignation has inspired many employees to seek opportunities elsewhere, including working mothers. As these employees return to the workforce, they hold more power than ever before, as companies are forced to meet their needs or risk losing them. 

Companies are in a labor shortage and are seeking high-quality talent after a mass exodus from the workforce during the pandemic. Employees who left are now realizing that they can use this talent shortage to their advantage to get the working environment and family-friendly benefits that they need. Whether it is a fully remote work model or access to affordable employer-sponsored child care solutions, job-seeking parents are negotiating what works best for them. 

To win over talent in this environment, company leaders need to be willing to step back and examine whether the benefits their companies currently offer are actually serving employees. For example, if the majority of your employees are entering the childbearing years, then you may examine whether your child care solutions are adequate and consider adding this as a benefit if you have not already. 

If you want to truly stay competitive and welcome working mothers back into the workplace, you need to have benefits that will support their needs.

The True ROI of Offering Robust Well-Being and Child Care Benefits

While many employers will be looking for increased employee retention rates and a better bottom line for their business, the true ROI of offering support to working parents goes deeper than that. 

Erin Grau, co-founder of Charter, mentioned in a recent webinar with Vivvi, that introducing benefits that support working parents signalled to employees “that we were the kind of organization that cared about the growth of your family and the growth of your career.” Having supports that solve working parents’ pain points, such as finding affordable child care, has a great impact on emotional well-being and employee loyalty.

Lisa Dallenbach, Chief People Officer of the Skimm, remarked that “some people need a bridge to get to work, some people need a car, and some people need child care.” Investing in employer-sponsored child care programs and other benefits such as flexible work arrangements gives working parents what they need to fully come to work, without having to also care for their children while they do that work. This will inevitably improve burnout rates, financial stressors, engagement, retention levels and much more. 

Employers must also note that defining the success of these benefit programs shouldn’t be narrowed to engagement and participation levels. 

Instead, you should take into account how it impacts your employees’ view of your company culture and what your company stands for. If an employee feels that a company is passionate about supporting working parents – especially working moms – this will act as an added benefit when attracting new talent. 

Caring for Working Parents: The Steps Your Organization Should Take

So, where do employers begin? What exactly should you be looking at when considering how your organization can better support working parents? Below are a few of the tried and tested steps that companies are taking to improve their employees’ emotional well-being. 

1. Embrace Flexibility

While offering flexibility was a necessity during the pandemic, tying this only to location and schedule will not be enough in the years to come. Along with considering a hybrid workplace policy, you must also consider options that improve how working parents can work. 

For example, Twitter notably introduced asynchronous work as part of their workflow. This gives working parents the ability to not feel tied to being available online during traditional work hours – meaning that they can prioritize caregiving at various times of the day. 

The idea of job sharing is equally as beneficial for working mothers, especially those who may be returning from maternity leave. The core message here is to think beyond offering remote work or ‘no meeting’ afternoons. Instead, you need to view how your organization can change the way employees work to better support family life. 

2. Examine Child Care Benefits & Parental Leave Policies

Are your parental leave policies robust enough? Do you offer returning mothers a program that allows them to stagger their return to full-time work? What about child care benefits beyond parental leave?

Asking yourself these questions is important in learning whether or not your existing family leave and child care policies are actually sufficient for your employees’ needs. After all, there are many ways of defining what a caregiver is. 

Many companies now offer fertility benefits that support employees in becoming a parent. Others are implementing programs that support soon-to-be parents that are going through the adoption process. And many more are adding child care benefits to extend support beyond those first few months of parenting. Benefit programs like these are valued highly by existing and prospective employees. 

Additionally, you need to review benefit policies to make sure that they incorporate both working moms and dads, and that they are generous enough to allow both parents to bond with their newborns. This is the first hurdle that many companies fail at when trying to support working parents. 

3. Foster a Culture That Keeps Mental Health Front of Mind

Parental burnout is one of the key issues facing all employers this year. While well-being benefits are critical, there are more sustainable ways to make sure the well-being of working parents is supported for years to come. 

Fostering a company culture that encourages your employees to take time to manage stress levels and improve their mental health is a necessity. Many companies do this by offering working parents an employee resource group (ERG) or a subscription to a wellness program, but it should also be incorporated into daily conversation and modeled by a company’s leaders.

Implementing solutions that will support your employees from both a professional and personal level will give your company a competitive edge when it comes to hiring and retaining working parents. 

How an Employer-Sponsored Child Care Provider Can Help

The most important step that an employer can take in caring for working parents is partnering with a child care provider. Time and again working mothers have voiced how vital employer-sponsored child care solutions are for them. 

An affordable child care provider can support your employees exactly where they are and at various stages of their parenting journey. Whether it is through an in-home option or access to on-site childcare, this program offering can be the pivotal point that improves employee retention and engagement.

At Vivvi, we partner with employers of all sizes to make full-time, high-quality child care more accessible and affordable for working parents. 

Our team of experienced early childhood educators work with you to provide next-level child care solutions that meet the needs of your business and your working parents. Visit our employer page to learn more about the benefits of offering employer-sponsored child care solutions to your working parents. 

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