This year marks the 10th Global Day of Parents; a celebration of parental units in all their shapes and sizes, introduced by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012 and marked annually on 1st June.
Parenting has never been easy and comes with countless challenges – as well as rewards and cherished moments. But we can’t deny that the past two years have presented even more obstacles and difficulties for parents and guardians than usual.
From somehow juggling work and childcare in the confines of home at the height of lockdown, to navigating the uncertainties of isolation and school/nursery closures – not to mention the issue of gender imbalances, redundancies and more – it’s been far from easy.
Now, the easing of restrictions has helped to make things a little more settled. With schools and nurseries back open and isolation laws lifted, it’s a bit easier to get back to parenting life as it was pre-pandemic.
Sadly, it’s not all that simple. Parents and carers are now facing entirely new challenges. Many, for example, are being ordered back to their on-site desks; a demand that throws yet another spanner into the works now that so many new routines have been established. Others are adjusting to the idea of returning to work after redundancies, career breaks or maternity/paternity/adoption leave. There’s even the added issue of a rise in nurseries and day-care centres closing due to lack of staffing and funding. The list goes on.
The dynamic has changed dramatically since the pandemic was at its peak, and it’s clear that things won’t immediately, seamlessly snap back to pre-covid childcare days. Perhaps, much like office life, parenting has changed forever, too.
So what can companies do to make the transition back into the office easier for parents?
One option is the provision of childcare at the office. Stephen Kramer, CEO of Bright Horizons in the US, recently spoke to the BBC about its popularity: “Now that employers are calling their employees back to the office, we are seeing an uptick in interest for on-site childcare services.”
It’s no wonder parents would be keen to be offered this option. Not only would it make it easier to source convenient childcare when spaces in nurseries are so hotly sought after, but it would also simplify commuting for parents, requiring just one journey rather than multiple trips early in the morning or during rush hour.
Alternatives include flexible and hybrid working. Many companies are indeed leaning towards hybrid working formats, despite the negative press this approach seems to be attracting. This could really help parents continue to juggle childcare and responsibilities while returning to the office for a few days a week, working their job around their life, rather than the other way around. This doesn’t come without its complexities – there’s no space for last-minute, in-person meeting requests when it means negotiating a change in routine with your nursery – but it’s certainly better than needing to be in the office full time.
Again, not only is this approach a huge benefit for parents and carers, but the perks extend to employers too. Trusting in your employees and empowering them to use their time in a way that suits them, while knowing that they will complete their tasks or fulfil their contracted hours regardless, creates a positive working environment and boosts morale and wellbeing. It seems to be the future of work.
When companies actively offer solutions for the members of their teams who face challenges such as juggling parenting and working life, it reflects positively on them. While the focus should be on the positive benefits for the individuals and their families, it’s always good when it improves business reputation and culture, too.
Additionally, offering opportunities like on-site childcare or flexible working can entice new team members and improve recruitment. There’s no doubt that providing benefits like this will also tap into a highly valued market at a time when so many workers are changing career paths and even leaving their jobs in their droves.
These changes don’t come without their problems, though. Providing these benefits will inevitably cost more or call into question expensive and unnecessary office spaces. But is it an investment worth making if it retains your valuable team members, ensures an equitable working culture, and attracts the very best talent? Yes, probably.
In terms of value for money, remote and flexible working certainly helps to save pounds and pennies for all involved, and while it does shake up habits we’ve developed over the years, perhaps we just need to continue exploring how we work and collaborate in the long term. Maybe many of the emergency solutions we came up with at the start of the pandemic-induced period of working from home should become a full-on culture shift.
For parents facing a return to work after time off – or even returning to a physical office after being away for longer than, perhaps, their childfree colleagues – it can be intimidating. There might be a sense of having to make up for lost time, or ‘catch up’ with their team’s developments. There’s even the worry of not being as visible if you’re out of the office more than others in order to navigate childcare. Hopefully, these changing times will provide more support and sympathy for those of us adjusting to these changes; and if not, there’s plenty of online advice available from people who have been through it, too. This article from Forbes, for example, offers plenty of food for thought.
It’s clear that parenting is tougher than ever before, and like many things, has been transformed irreversibly by this global crisis we’ve been going through. But on Global Day of Parents 2022, it’s important to look at the positive outcomes of these changes, and what we can do to use this new world to our advantage – as individuals, as parents, and as employers.
At Druthers, it’s our mission and our passion to empower organisations to find the best person to make an impact on their work, from a diverse shortlist of remarkable talent. Get in touch with us to find out how your business can make a positive change to your hiring and retention processes.