Working parents, particularly moms, have always had it hard in the United States. However, in the last two years of the pandemic, their lives have been turned upside down. Recent surveys have revealed just how challenging working and parenting simultaneously during these tumultuous times has been for families.
HR leaders can use the information gathered about working parents to better understand their needs and create a dialogue, so they can address ways employers can help. These kinds of efforts targeting niche groups on the team can improve retention at a time when there is a historic labor shortage. Discover what working parents need HR leaders to know about their life right now:
Working Parents Feel Burned Out
The respondents of HR Exchange Network’s latest State of HR report said burnout was the greatest consequence of the pandemic and thus signaled some of the findings in these surveys of working parents. In fact, 66% of working parents report being burned out, according to Pandemic Parenting, a May 2022 report by the Ohio University Office of the Chief Wellness Officer and College of Nursing.
REPORT: State of HR
Parents feel stretched too thin. They experience guilt when they are working overtime – perhaps to make up for labor shortages at their organization – and when they are spending time with their kids rather than crossing off another to-do on the list. They are worried about the safety of their family, the effect of the pandemic and hard times on everyone’s health, finances, and their own work-life balance.
The report defines parental burnout as a time when chronic stress and exhaustion occur and overwhelm a parent’s ability to cope and function. Parents are feeling it in their very soul.
Employers should swoop in to help because of both the business and moral imperative. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but if employers ignore the problem, then they risk having more people joining the Great Resignation or employees who cannot get the job done.
What HR Can Do: HR can offer more mental health and wellness benefits, access to resources, such as therapy and wellness apps, and help people access employee assistance programs.
Pay Attention to Employees Who Are Moms
Large numbers of moms dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic, and organizations want to win them back. Good intentions are not enough, however. Employers have to recognize the reality for working moms. For starters, moms were more likely than dads to experience burnout, according to the Ohio State report. In fact, 68% of women respondents said they were burned out.
Women with children have repeatedly reported that working from home was more convenient and would increase the likelihood that they would return to the workforce or stay put if they are already working. Yet, many employers are insisting on carrying out return to office plans or rigid hybrid schedules. Without at least transparency and communication, these policies can come off as tone deaf.
What HR Can Do: Surveys, listening tours, focus groups, and even one-on-one conversations with the working parents in their organization can shed light one what both moms and dads need to carry on. Once HR has this kind of information, it can address some of the issues facing parents.
In a recent report McKinsey revealed that 45% of mothers with children aged 5 and under who left the workforce during the pandemic cited childcare as a major reason for their departure, compared with 14% of fathers who said the same. Losing women means losing functional expertise, institutional knowledge, managerial capabilities, mentorship, and more, according to the report.
If employers want to recruit and retain more working moms, then providing help with childcare is the answer. Nearly 70% of women with children aged 5 and under who are currently looking for employment said they would be more likely to choose an employer who offered assistance with childcare expenses or provided access to on-site childcare. More than 80% said when they were deciding to stay at a company that childcare benefits would be very important or somewhat important.
What HR Can Do: In an ideal world, every employer could offer on-site childcare. That’s not realistic, but HR can provide access to childcare or childcare resources, funds for childcare, or activities for children. The report cites an example of a company that provides summer camp and after school programs. Any help paying for childcare is welcome, too.
Flexibility Is Key
One aspect of the pandemic that must remain for all employees is some level of flexibility. The pandemic revealed that life happens and people have little control. That is true for working parents and everyone else. That is why flexibility is a benfit that HR leaders have to seriously consider and build into their employee engagement programs.
Flexibility can refer to a manager allowing an employee to take a few hours to bring a child to a doctor’s appointment or attend a recital. It can mean letting an employee set hours around school drop off and pick up. It can also mean that people can work remotely from different places that are more convenient for them.
Ultimately, to help working parents, HR leaders have to begin by listening to what they need. The two biggest issues for working parents entering the post-COVID world are burnout and childcare. Any HR leaders who can find creative solutions to those two problems will have an edge in the talent war, especially if they want to win over working mothers.
Photo by Elina Fairytale for Pexels