Working Transitions

It's all kids play - why balancing work and childcare can benefit all

From Andrea Leadsom’s comments about being a mother, through to David Cameron showing his children in public for the first time and taking them to the Palace when he resigned, families have been at the forefront of recent political stories. Jeremy Corbyn too praised the families of MPs during Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday.

In business, having a family and holding down a job at the same time is never easy, and it often means that there is an impact on the amount of enjoyment that parents are able to get from their job. Whilst trying to strike the right balance, many find that in the wrong environment, their productivity suffers, in addition to their general performance and morale – which can ultimately mean that there is an effect on both the individual and the business that they are a part of.

But clever organisations who embrace families, can often get more from their employees.

Allowing a balance is not simply a compromise

Allowing parents to strike the right kind of balance between childcare and their working life means that businesses are able to make the most of the talent pool that is available to them. The result is greater security the feeling of being able to perform to the best of their ability. It is vital that managers understand that the need to take time away from the workplace is not a lack of commitment to the job role – but instead a necessary absence from an employee trying to balance another equally as important role. This type of understanding from management is often lacking in many workplaces.

Businesses who help employees to strike this balance are helping themselves to develop and evolve their workforce. It is often found that those employees who are supported the most feel the most able to put their all into their job role, and therefore contribute the most effectively to the team of which they are a part.

Enabling working parents to focus on work

One of the main issues with balancing work and family life is the fact that worry can sometimes take over whilst in work, and this means that focus can be lost on tasks that are important during the working day. If an employee knows that everything is okay at home, this will give them the peace of mind to be able to relax and work to the best of their ability. In addition knowing that there is a plan in place in case of emergency – with the flexibility to leave work or attend appointments when it is unavoidable, is reassuring to all.

The knowledge that their employer is committed to helping an employee to strike the balance between work and home is likely to make them feel valued, with a positive impact on motivation and engagement. They are more likely to want to learn new skills, enabling them to feel more personally fulfilled at work.

How employers can benefit a from positive working relationship with parent employees

Not only can being flexible help parents to find more success and motivation in the workplace, but there are also a number of reasons that this could be of great benefit to the employer, too.

A reputation for family friendly policies helps to attract talent. In the UK, women (despite significant progress, still the main child carers) make up almost half of the workforce, and of these more than 80% will have children at some point during the course of their working lives. By being able to attract applications from this group, companies have the best pick of talent in many areas, which ultimately makes a significant impact on the bottom line.

More engagement from employees

Thanks to the fact that employees appreciate that their employer is supportive of their needs, they are much more motivated to do their best. This can mean that they are more productive during the working day and also that they are more likely to stay in their job role and remain loyal to the company. Good maternity/paternity policies mean also that it is much more likely that they will return to their role afterwards, meaning that companies have a lower turnover of personnel.

Fewer absences

It is important to try to reduce the number of days that individuals need to take off work, and by being supportive of the employees’ needs, absences are much easier to avoid – or at least they will be planned, leaving more chance to put a plan in place cover. This means that organisations will lose less money through sick days or other absences.

How can employers get the balance right?

There are many things that can be done to help both the company and the individual when it comes to developing a positive working relationship that is consistent with the employee’s needs as a parent. The first thing to do is to address the issue before the employee takes their maternity/paternity/parental leave. Discussing a future plan of action can help, as it means that both parties are prepared for possible changes that will take place when the leave is over. This gives the chance to communicate these potential changes and options to the rest of the team, and assess how it might impact them as a whole. But, crucially, the employee will know that there is support for them to fit back into the team upon their return to work.

When it comes to flexible working to support family life it is important to engage the whole workforce. If the perception is that one team member is “taking advantage” of other team members (whether this be the case or not), then team dynamics can quickly shift and the impact upon productivity can be poor. It should, instead, be shown as an advantage for everyone.

Family benefits and policies linked to the recognition and reward scheme are also extremely valuable. This extends beyond the standard childcare voucher schemes, important as they are. Some companies are now offering guaranteed family day holidays, so that for example you are guaranteed to be able to take the day off as holiday for family occasions, such as the school sports day or Christmas plays. Other organisations are involving partners and family members in activities, such as Christmas parties, family fun days and also paying for meals out etc as rewards.

This is not just about child care issues. In an age where a rapidly expanding older workforce is faced with more caring responsibilities for elderly parents, there is a growing need to allow more flexibility for doctor and hospital appointments etc. that must not be overlooked.

Even the smallest things can go a long way to help improve retention, and demonstrate two things; firstly that the organisation appreciates that a happy family life and the support of loved ones allows you to achieve more in your job, and secondly that the lines between work and home are now blurred.

Employers need to think beyond just the employee and start to think about their family and broader responsibilities outside work too. Ultimately, by working together, employers and employees can all benefit from a supportive relationship when an employee has family responsibilities to consider. This has a great effect on both parties, plus the business as a whole. When you consider just what a huge proportion of the workforce have family responsibilities of some sort, it is clear to see exactly why it is important to take this into account in order to ensure commercial success.


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Working Transitions
07 July 2016
Supporting effective and successful organisational change


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