When we come to work we don’t just bring the relevant skills for the job; our background and life experience also follow us through the workplace door.
Being open to that diversity as an employer will undoubtedly have positive spinoffs for your employees – but it’s also good for business.
A great example of this is the positive impact parents can have in the workplace. Many parents, for example, are highly productive employees, attuned to maximising their available time as they balance responsibilities at work and home.
The rise in the number of families where both parents work has also had the wider benefit of normalising flexible working arrangements. And through their experiences bringing up children, parents can have strong empathy skills and be open to other points of view – characteristics that make for great leaders and help build connections with customers.
Providing flexibility is key to supporting parents in the workplace – and it’s not just about altering start and finish times; flexibility can also relate to places of work, for example, or job sharing.
If the role allows, working from home or otherwise remotely can have great spinoffs for parents in terms of reduced travel time and greater childcare flexibility. But for businesses it can also lead to reduced overheads like office space, and increased employee productivity and retention.
Sometimes creating flexibility requires ‘out of the box’ thinking. A retail business owner, for example, might think all employees need to work solely within traditional 9-5 opening hours. But take a closer look at your customers’ needs and you could be surprised at the number of tasks that might be more optimally performed outside those parameters. How many people are really coming in to your store between 9am and 10.30am, for example? Or would certain tasks, like outbound calls to customers, be more effectively carried out in the evenings?
Job sharing, or upskilling and spreading responsibilities more broadly across your employees, can help provide parents with greater flexibility, but it also minimises business risk (for example, reducing the impact when an employee leaves) and makes a business more resilient.
One of the most important things an employer can do to create a win-win situation for themselves and their parent employees is foster open communication about flexibility and how it might look in their particular workplace.
One great initiative we have at BNZ is an employee resource community called Growing Families. This group pulls together a whole range of activities relevant to our parent employees – from organising parenting presentations, to creating discussion around BNZ policies.
Perhaps you could start a parent community of your own from among an existing network of small businesses you belong to. Or foster some of the many connections your employees have in the community by supporting a kids’ sports club that a parent is involved with.
Finding ways to foster those connections with parents and create greater flexibility are more important now than ever. Future trends point to more shared partnerships in families raising children, requiring employers to think increasingly about how they support men as parents in their workplaces.
And ultimately the workforce of the future – not just parents – will demand greater flexibility thanks to advances in technology, meaning workplaces that have explored options beyond spending nine-to-five in an office will be ahead of the game.