Each May and June, we’re given special days to celebrate the moms and dads and special role models in our lives. And having recently spent Father’s Day with my kids and granddaughter, I’ve taken this opportunity to reflect on how challenging this past year has been for working parents. From lack of childcare to virtual learning for students, this pandemic stressed the fabric of so many households.
Fortunately, Unum and Colonial Life quickly recognized the challenges our workers were up against during the pandemic. We made it our priority to remain flexible, especially for those with caregiving responsibilities.
As we look forward and more businesses welcome employees back to the office, now is a good time to reflect on learnings and plans to support working parents. Here are some things I’ve learned working for a leading benefits provider.
- Flexibility is critical. In a survey we conducted among U.S. workers, flexible or remote work options ranked as the second most-wanted perk people want from their employer. As leaders reevaluate the future of their business post-pandemic, many companies are considering a hybrid approach that helps workers better balance work and their personal lives. For working parents, this perk is a game-changer.
- Encourage employees to take paid parental leave. Unum and Colonial Life offer paid parental leave as a key benefit to attract and retain the best and brightest talent to serve our customers and grow our business. However, more of our research shows there’s a stigma for parents taking paid parental leave in our broader society—especially for dads. Of new fathers, 37% said they feel there’s a stigma in their workplace around new parents, with 80% of them experiencing it firsthand. Celebrate the moms and dads who take time off to bond with children—it’ll encourage others to do the same.
- Create a family-friendly culture by providing an ongoing opportunity to exchange ideas with employees who are also parents or caretakers. Make it easy for working parents to come together at work – either virtually or in-person – to share best approaches to parenting and childcare resources and tips. Start a working-moms/working-dads group or mentor program for employees new to parenting.
- Lead with empathy and by example. Managers and leaders have an opportunity to model how they balance workloads with their personal lives. Flexibility and understanding are key – give team members advance notice of deadlines so they can plan ahead for their child’s extracurricular activities and set realistic expectations around responding to non-urgent emails outside of usual business hours.
Benefits like these are not just “perks” for parents — they’re investments that clear the runway for working parents to thrive professionally, meet their goals, and bring their best to work each day. These benefits are an investment in your employees, your business, and your community.
Celebrate all the working parents you know for navigating these recent challenging times. Let’s continue to foster inclusive and supportive workplaces for them. We all have a role to play.