Flexibility for working parents is essential - trying to be your best work and at home?

How workplaces can support working parents - top five tips for employers

Schools and childcare have resumed, providing parents with much needed support and head space, but we know that 44 per cent of UK workers (that’s more than 13 million people) plan to ask their employer for changes to their long-term working pattern once the pandemic has subsided.

But pandemic or not, many parents value and rely on flexibility to enable them to be their best at work and at home. Family life is a juggling act; 9 am drop off and foot down to get to the office, children get sick, there are a lot of school holidays to cover not to mention parents evenings, school shows etc.

And while flexible working might be in demand from parents balancing work and their caring responsibilities, these days everyone wants an element of flexibility for a vast variety of reasons. Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, the default Monday to Friday 9-5 office working pattern was becoming outdated for many of us. Employees of all ages and stages were pushing against it and progressive employers were realising a more flexible and less rigid approach to where and when people work was more conducive for business success.

This means that in order to keep your best people and to be an employer of choice, workplaces now need to be looking at how they best support their employees to work in a flexible way. And this is a win-win for people and organisations. Employees who work flexibility are more engaged, committed and ultimately more productive

I first encountered flexible working head on as a first time mum five years ago. I held a senior role in a third sector organisation and was keen to job-share in order to balance a role and I loved spending quality time with my baby. This arrangement was not to be. I was so upset and frustrated. How could senior women (in this case) retain a career alongside family life unless we were more creative about how we design work. And how could organisations keep engaged, hard working and loyal employees unless they were more open minded to new ways of working.

We all experienced the world changing dramatically as we went into lockdown. Around half (49%) of the UK workforce was entirely home-working at the height of the pandemic. This six-month mass home working experiment has been hugely challenging, but it has proven that people can work effectively flexibly. We have heard from countless managers and employees who have had a complete mindset shift regarding flexible and home working – we have seen flexible working cynics becoming flexible working champions.

Here are my top 5 tips for employers to support their employees - including working parents- more flexibly:

Create a positive working culture- forget the rigid 9 am-5 pm. People tell us time after time they are more productive when they have more control over when and where they work, even small adjustments can make a big difference. For working parents, this may mean doing the school run, logging on after 9 am and working a little in the evening. This is a stressful time for people; lead with empathy and understanding.

Focus on great team communication and collaboration flexible working, in particular remote working, requires varied forms of communication. You should be prepared to spend more time communicating on an individual and group basis to ensure effective working relationships are maintained. Building in time for non work conversations is important too.

Support colleagues who may have children at home schools and nurseries are back, but the chances are, there will be times where children will need to be kept at home. You need to be realistic about people’s workload and set achievable outcomes and most importantly be flexible and adaptable as circumstances can change day to day. It is vital that your door is open and that people feel empowered to talk to you about their working arrangements.

Focus on employee wellbeing increasingly as a key business priority. It is vital that you check in on people’s workload and stress and offer support. Homeworkers and more likely to work too much than too little, because they don’t cues to break up the day. Managers should be alert to burn out and encourage employees to take breaks. Isolation and loneliness is also a concern - pull out all the stops for employees to stay connected.

Manage performance by outcomes not hours worked we encourage employers to look at output not rigid hours of work. Work with your employees to agree on clear individual objectives. Have open, honest conversations with your team and trust people to get the job done.

working from home with children

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