We’re fortunate in our jobs that we get to speak to lots of different people every single day, all with their own stories, own career paths and objectives for the future. For the most part it’s enjoyable and interesting, however, we also are able to hear (and understand) peoples frustrations about trying to achieve that work life balance we all desire. The largest group of people in the frustrated category are parents, especially those with young children. We know all too well how it feels to have worked full time since leaving college, giving all you have to your career, only to choose to have children later in life and find that the world of work isn’t as flexible and accommodating as you would have hoped..
So what is it about working parents that scares employers so much they are unable to offer understanding and flexibility during the working week? Do we all of a sudden become incapable of performing in our jobs because we have chosen to breed? As recruiters AND mums, both Caroline and I feel well placed to offer our opinions on this uncomfortable topic.
There will always be the argument that if you give special dispensation to working parents then you will have to give it to everyone. So yes, maybe there needs to be a huge culture change in the working world to enable ALL people to lead a happier, more fulfilled life. And of course, people with children have chosen to have them and are aware that certain factors of their lives will change. In all honesty, us working parents don’t want to be treated differently, we are just looking for an understanding of our new situations! But we think it would do us all well to remember that those children, who your employee is working so hard to provide for and bring up as decent human beings, may one day be world famous surgeons who save YOUR life, fabulous teachers who steer your grandchildren through the education system, or electricians who spot a faulty fuse in your house and prevent a disaster.
We live and breathe juggling our careers and our children and no, it isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. But, it needs a little more empathy and understanding from employers about the benefits of employing working parents, even if it means altering the rule book a little, to make sure people CAN have a career and a family.
If we had to think of the top 5 things that we believe employers should consider when it comes to working parents, this is what we’d go for:
Flexible shift times: Many employers may not be aware that nurseries or after school clubs finish no later than 6:30pm. This means you have to allow a realistic travelling time to get from the place of work to said provision, not possible if you HAVE to be part of a rota system that covers a variety of shifts. Employers would do well to offer a range of shifts more suited to working parents giving options to those who would still like to be a part of those important drop off and picks ups at the school gates.
Option to work from home: Now, we’re not talking about allowing working whilst a couple of toddlers race around the house (we certainly don’t do that!). But giving a working parent the option to work from home even a couple of days a week can greatly reduce their stress levels regarding the timing of commuting combined with childcare drop offs/pick ups.
Keep it real: Kids get ill. And often, nurseries have to send them home. So when a working parent gets a call in the middle of the day that they have to go and collect their baby, don’t sigh and look annoyed. Believe us, that parent didn’t want to get that call. If they aren’t lucky enough to have family on the doorstep who can collect them, there is no choice but to leave the office for the day. So give them a smile, tell them of course they need to go and to make sure that their child is where they need to be. You’ll find that person will be logging on later to make up the couple of hours they’ve lost because they’ll want to thank you for your understanding and compassion.
School events: Both our eldest children have just started school and receiving the termly timetable with various meetings scheduled for parents during the week has been a surprise. We’re fortunate enough that we work for ourselves and so can pop along to the “understanding how we teach your child to read” session or go in and see what work our children have done that week after the school bell. Think about building some kind of flexibility in to your benefits package – opportunities to swap shifts or maybe allow requests to leave 2 hours early/start 2 hours later once a month.
Stand out from the rest: Be the company that offers flexibility and watch the dedication to your cause rise. Parents will STAY. They will want to repay you for your understanding that they now have other, smaller, people who depend on them.
If you’re looking for a new job in the business travel sector, or, would like some assistance recruiting for a position, please do get in touch with us – firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com – we’d love to chat and see if we can help.
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