Parenthood means more than buying a boatload of new gear and regularly posting adorable chubby-cheeked baby pictures to your Instagram feed; it affects everything from financial flexibility to how you check your email. We’d like to unpack some common misunderstandings about caregiving employees so that employers can offer comprehensive, pertinent support for the parents on their team and enable them to do all of their jobs better. Here are four commonly misunderstood truths about caregiving employees:
1. Leaving the office doesn’t mean the day is done
Many parents require some form of alternative or flexible scheduling to allow them to care for their child. This may mean that an employee leaves the workplace earlier than most of his or her colleagues because they have to get to their next job: daycare pickup or nanny relief. Similarly, some parents show up at work later than they’d like because they’re waiting for their daycare to open or a nanny to arrive. As an employer, you can dial down some of the stress parents might feel by regularly checking in with caregiving employees about how effective their daily schedule is. If appropriate, help them determine which elements of their job must be done in-person during typical 9-5 hours and which can be done just as effectively from home during “off” hours. Letting your employees know that you respect and can work with their caregiving commitments will help them execute all of their responsibilities more smoothly.
2. Working from home means more than staying in sweatpants
Working remotely is an essential tool for hard-working parents. As already mentioned, all caregiving parents require some degree of scheduling flexibility at one point or another. Working from home (or working remotely) is a tremendous professional benefit because it gives parents something they’re always short on: time. If a parent can either cut out travel time or somehow better support whomever is watching their child by staying closer to home, the ability to work remotely is worth highly valuable both for you and your employee. Ensure your employees are fully equipped with both the necessary hardware and software–as well as training–to do as much of their job outside of the office as needed. Also, be sure to review any policies you might have around communicating with colleagues about working remotely or updating an intra-office calendar to reflect location.
3. A job doesn’t always come second
Parents love their kids—a lot. It’s part of the job description. So, some may assume that parent-employees will always put their families first and their jobs second. The truth is that the balance between work and home is much more nuanced than that. Caregiving employees still care deeply about their jobs; the intellectual, physical, and/or financial stimulation from a job can be an essential piece of a fulfilling life. For some employees, their jobs are precisely what make them the best mother or father they can be. Others work hard because they very much want their child to see a first-hand example of men and women working together–and enjoying that work. Still others believe that their job has merit in and of itself and is imperative to the well-being of their city, state or country. Having a family doesn’t automatically eclipse a caregiving employees’ commitment to work; having a family often motivates and enriches a caregiving employee’s professional drive.
Take a moment to connect with your caregiving employees to see what motivates them and how the workplace can further embrace those values. Whether it’s hosting fun family-inclusive events or inviting employees’ children into the office, showing your employees that you respect their commitment to both work and home helps them continue to give their all in both places.
4. Commute time isn’t wasted time
When employees become parents, they make all sorts of trade-offs. Adding commute time is a common one, as parents either move further from their workplace to gain more home space for their growing family or add another stop (e.g., daycare or school drop-off) on their way into the office. While some may zone out on a train ride or listen to a new Spotify playlist on a drive, commute time usually isn’t wasted by caregiving employees . Share with your new parents who may be utilizing flexible scheduling for the first time that commute time can be utilized to work more efficiently. Reminding your caregiving employees that work doesn’t always have to be done seated at desk can yield dividends in productivity for them and for the entire workplace.
Caregiving employees have a lot on their plates. In order to be their best selves at home and in the workplace, employers can try to appreciate and understand the challenges that working parents face. By unraveling these four common misunderstandings in the workplace, you can encourage a new kind of collegiality that promotes clear communication and productivity.
Interested in learning more about how to support new parents and caregiving employees at your organization? Download our new eBook: How to Help Your Employees Return From Maternity Leave.