How to Make Life Easier for Working Parents

The working parent’s employee experience is difficult, to say the least. According to Bright Horizons’ 2016 Modern Family Index, more than one in three new parents think they’re treated worse than their co-workers. Understandably, this can hurt employee well-being and cause job dissatisfaction.

Outside of the pressures within the office, working parents also have a lot of responsibilities at home. Child care. School events. Playdates. The stress that comes along with being a parent can be debilitating — perhaps even more than employers realize.

Here’s a look at three data-backed challenges working parents face and how you can help:

Childhood obesity

We’re all aware of the weight epidemic within the U.S. But it was Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” public health campaign that brought childhood obesity to light. What’s startling is the impact working parents have on their children’s probability of being overweight.

Researchers at the IZA Institute of Labor Economics published a paper revealing that when both parents work away from their children, their children are more likely to become overweight or obese.

This health condition is especially detrimental for children. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that children with obesity are at a higher risk for conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease to bone and joint problems to type 2 diabetes.

Help parents and especially new and expectant parents by promoting family-inclusive events and wellness benefits. For example, host a cooking class where a nutritionist instructs parents and their children on how to cook healthy, simple meals together.

This is a great way to build an inclusive workplace culture centered on employee well-being and overall wellness.

Disability and special needs

Parents who have children with disabilities and who require special needs care face a great deal of stress.

According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care, parents who have children with special health care needs are more likely to leave the workforce or lose employment than their peers without health challenges.

Unfortunately, this situation is more common than you may think. In fact, research from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration shows that one in five U.S. families have a child with a special health care need.

The last thing you want is to put working parents in a situation where they need to choose between their career and caring for their disabled child. One step is to start employee resource groups that help build communities within your culture. These should be tailored to different interests and situations, one of which should focus on parents of disabled children.

Have leaders sponsor these groups and provide funding for them. The facilitator of the group can then decide with the participants on how to best spend it.

Whatever the case, this gives these parents a place where they feel safe discussing their struggles.

Guilt

Being a working parent comes with a fair amount of guilt: guilt for missing a school activity, guilt for leaving your child with a nanny, and even guilt for needing help from a co-worker. And this guilt can become a major distraction in the workplace.

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In 2014, baby care products company NUK surveyed 2,000 UK moms and found that nearly nine in 10 feel guilty at some point in relation to parenting. What’s more, 21% say they feel guilty most or all of the time.

But it’s not just mothers who feel this way. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey found that 48% of working dads say they spend too little time with their kids.

Fortunately, you can help ease the burden of this stress and guilt for working parents. Start by trying to understand the working parent’s experience. You might take a short poll or conduct a type of “lunch and learn” meeting to gain insight into the unique issues your employees with young children face. Follow-up with questions centered on how they feel about responsibilities at home. Make these questions specific to the parent experience to identify their top pain points.

With the results as a guide, consider how the organization can help them. Flexible work schedules cost little or nothing to implement while giving parents time to spend with their child. Providing day care support is another option. Even if the company isn’t able to provide financial support, you may be able to negotiate an employee rate with a nearby center. Some companies allow new parents to bring their infants to work.

When you focus on supporting working parents and helping them manage their unique circumstances, you boost employee well-being. And this helps working parents perform at their best both at home and at work.