Working parents are struggling, stress Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Christine Carter, calling for greater support.
Day by day, hour by hour, working parents are just barely piecing things together at home and work. A representative vignette: one afternoon, a parent finds themselves zoomed into an all-hands meeting. However, today they must log-off early to pick their child up from school. With their partner also working a full-time job, and their childcare costs becoming unaffordable, they are left with few choices. This is becoming a regular occurrence – having to decide whose job is more important, who has the capability to push back against their employer. Simply, working parents have even fewer options and resources.
Even though paid maternity leave is on the rise in the UK, many parents are struggling. Inflexible working arrangements continue to be a hindrance, causing as many as 55 percent of working parents to consider resignation in the hopes of having just one day without chaos.
This “flexidus” is exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis. Where parents would usually have turned to childcare as an alternative to inflexibility at work, childcare costs are skyrocketing out of control. This creates a career roadblock for many working parents, and subsequently, yet another potential reason for resignation.
Indeed, a recent BetterUp survey showed that nearly two in three parents of children under 10 said they felt spread thin between their work and parenting responsibilities, with slightly less than half of respondents feeling uncomfortable sharing their childcare needs with their boss. While organisations may not be the sole cause behind these issues for working parents, they’re certainly in a position to help.
Supporting parents to support the bottom line
Our research and experience suggest that companies benefit more — in terms of innovation, productivity, and the bottom line — when they invest more in parents.
This is because, from an organisational perspective, parents are often mid-tenure employees in key managerial and individual contributor roles. Moreover, managers who are parents provide significant social support and mentorship to others in their organisations.
They’re also more resilient. In a late 2020 study, BetterUp found that parents with young children at home had higher resilience, stronger coping skills, and greater optimism than their counterparts without children. This may sound counterintuitive: Why would parents struggling with so many challenges be thriving where others struggle? The answer is that parents learn early in their parenting journey to accommodate and juggle greater demands, such that each individual challenge is more surmountable.
For this reason, organisations that include and support parents have a competitive edge, not just in attracting and retaining talent but in organisational performance.
Disengaged, stressed, burnt-out employees mean lower productivity, innovation, and — in today’s tight labour market — higher turnover. Parents with higher levels of resilience, and organisational support to help them stay resilient, can model these behaviours for others and shore up the emotional well-being of the collective around them.
Our research has shown just this — that investing more in benefits for parents and caregivers improves work outcomes. For example, parents who received coaching were “pandemic thrivers” with improved outcomes around adaptability, self-care, coping, and outlook compared to others who did not have coaching.
Moreover, feeling supported at work is linked with a 28 percent boost in wellbeing for parents. The resulting trust increases loyalty as well, with intent-to-stay scores for working parents jumping 13 percent when they felt supported by their employers.
Be a lifeboat to parents
Employers, this is your call to be a lifeboat. Offer the support your parents need. Parents deserve more than to feel cut adrift amidst the physical and mental toll of juggling myriad responsibilities. Organisations must enact policies and benefits to help them find solid ground. The lifeboat you build today will likely be the ship you sail tomorrow.
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, M.D. is Chief Product Officer at BetterUp, founding CEO of LifeLink. Christine Carter, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and coach dedicated to redesigning the way we work.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.