Considerations for Working Parents
August 24, 2021 / Employee Wellbeing Best Practices
From frontline workers to office workers and everyone in between, COVID-19 turned the world of work upside down and made the ill-defined lines between work and home life blurrier than ever. And while no one was left unaffected by the fear, uncertainty, and sudden changes brought on by the pandemic, working parents were (and continue to be) uniquely impacted.
Just as organizations announced plans to bring employees back to the workplace, the Delta variant raised new concerns, and many scaled back or delayed their reopening efforts. At the same time, the start of a new school year is rapidly approaching, and uncertainty over in-person learning looms for working parents.
Many working parents are overwhelmed and struggling with mental health, financial wellbeing, and the ability to care for their family’s needs while the future of work remains up in the air. While organizational leaders can’t step in to help share the childcare burden directly, they can offer their employees support in these critical areas. We spoke with Ovia Health, VP+ partner and a leading maternity and family benefits solution for employers and health plans about how organizations can better support the parents in their workforce. Here’s what they had to say:
Understand the Financial Stress Parents Are Facing
Raising a family is rewarding, but it’s also expensive. The layoffs, furloughs, salary reductions, and the general fear of losing a job that many employees faced during COVID-19 increased the cost of providing for a family. This financial instability also exacerbated the stressors related to these costs.
After well over a year of sky-high costs and limited options, working parents—especially mothers—are feeling the strain now more than ever. For those considered essential workers during the pandemic (who typically earn lower wages), it is unsustainable to expect women to continue to work without ample childcare support. And for those who were lucky enough to ￼work remotely, they endured the stress of caring for their children 24/7 while attempting to remain productive and focused at work each day, all without reprieve. Additionally, parents experienced a significant increase in their household budget due to things like last-minute childcare, paying for daycare without being able to utilize it, or seeking out alternative, more expensive childcare options.
For employees who are required to be onsite, many best-in-class employers are beginning to offer childcare stipends or even onsite daycare—especially as a way to utilize empty office space—to support working mothers. Beyond childcare, another way many employers are alleviating financial stress for parents is by offering stipends for family-related expenses or family-building expenses. Family-building can be costly, and standard health insurance does not usually cover these expenses. Stipends can be used like typical flex spending for a variety of family-related expenses including childcare, healthcare, mental health care, egg freezing, IVF, IUI, adoption, surrogacy costs, and more.
Emphasize Equity and Inclusion for All Working Parents
There’s more to life than work. Investing in family benefits shows your employees that you’re there for them and their loved ones, that it’s okay to have a family and a career, and that you don’t expect (or want) them to sacrifice either. It opens the door for families to be respected across every team, especially if the solutions you invest in include manager training to ensure these values and policies are incorporated across the organization.
By prioritizing family health and encouraging work-life balance, your organization sends a message of support and understanding to all parents, especially working moms who often bear the brunt of family responsibilities and caregiving. It demonstrates that you as a leader value their contributions and want to ensure they have what they need to be successful as an employee, leader, and caregiver.
Your solution should be inclusive of all types of families, not just the heteronormative family structure. Investing in the appropriate solutions enables LGBTQ+ employees to grow and better support their families through adoption, surrogacy, and IUI or IVF paths to parenthood. Inclusive family benefits also help employees navigate the complicated situations many LGBTQ+ parents face raising children in a world that is not necessarily built for their family structure.
Additionally, family benefits allow you to address health inequitiesthat may adversely impact your team, especially Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) employees. For example, Black mothers are much more likely to experience adverse mental health outcomes and simultaneously less likely to have their concerns taken seriously by their care team. Investing in a solution that addresses health equity and provides culturally congruent care options can help improve outcomes for disproportionately impacted minority groups in your workforce, like Black mothers.
Allow Life and Work to Coexist
If employees feel like they have to hide a significant part of their life, it impacts their engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. It has, and will, cause people to consider switching jobs. Support is essential for employees, just like retention is essential for employers.
Some strategies we’ve seen our clients implement that have been successful in creating a safe, inclusive workplace for parents include:
- Offering tangible benefits, like Virgin Pulse and Ovia, that help parents tackle the questions around returning to work programming, so they learn how to manage mental and physical health, career, and family.
- Making sure the company culture includes active conversations around parenting and wellbeing, especially if there are fewer parents in your department or team who may, in turn, feel isolated.
- Encouraging everyone to bring their whole selves to work.
Ready to Support Your Working Parents?
Your digital employee wellbeing program is an excellent tool for sharing messages and resources like these with the whole company. Integrated within Virgin Pulse’s Homebase for Health® as part of the VP+ partner offer, Ovia Health allows you to incorporate specific family health and planning tools into your wellbeing ecosystem. You can also encourage your people to utilize Virgin Pulse platform features like daily habit tracking, health coaching, or Journeys to empower them to create new workweek routines that best fit their needs.