.
W

hile the “working parent” has traditionally had to silently struggle in balancing work responsibilities and career advancement with raising and caring for children, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention and a new sense of empathy for the plight of those who work and parent at the same time. Indeed, as the traditional family model continues to shift away from the model of one working parent and one child-rearing parent to a newer model where both parents as well as single parents are required to work, policy at both the company and federal level will be necessary to address the needs of working parents, as well as a mindset and cultural shift towards destigmatizing many of the taboos surrounding working parents. However, as each individual employee experiences unique parental challenges, the ability for employers to address and support their working parents can prove difficult—especially during a pandemic. The question remains then: how can the role of employers evolve in order to better deal with the unique needs of working parents? And more importantly, what can be done on the governmental level to address the universal needs of parents in every industry?

Key Takeaways

Parental needs and employment needs are changing.

With both parental responsibilities and work responsibilities increasing for working parents, the support of their organizations, communities and the government will be necessary.

While the fundamental parental need to support children has not changed, the world we are raising our children in has. Though children require a certain set of needs that are universal—the need to be well sheltered, well fed and most of all well-loved—the evolving landscape of education and jobs has changed the kind of education children are expected to learn, as well as the necessity to be able to more flexibly respond to the way our world is rapidly evolving.

As such, parents are expected to take care of their children in a way that will prepare them for this unknown future—all while tackling it themselves. Indeed, with the increasing expectation for parents to do more for their children while also being expected to do more for their companies and employers, parents are facing increasing pressure in both their home and work lives—and with the pandemic suddenly seeing these two worlds collide, the need for parents to be supported by their companies, their communities and their governments is more critical than ever.

The pandemic is affecting different parents in different ways. Just as parents working remotely will have different needs than parents working on the frontline, the needs of parents with children of different ages—from parents of newborns, to parents with children in K-12, to parents with grown children and even parents taking care of their own parents—has affected working parents of all different backgrounds in very unique ways, and therefore, it is crucial that solutions be more individualized in order to empower parents who work as best as possible based on their unique circumstances and challenges.

There is a wide range of solutions, but it is not easy to understand how to adapt them individually to each parent’s unique needs. When it comes to recognizing the supports working parents need at this time, much of the responsibility is falling on the manager—on how they’re engaging with and supporting their employees in terms of work flexibility, time off and other benefits. However, with such a wide spectrum of employees with different needs—from parents with children in school to parents opting for homeschooling to single people with no children at all—understanding the needs of each individual employee can prove a daunting task for employers.

Indeed, with so many different supports needed for so many different circumstances of working parents, from needs such as a support community—which, for many parents, used to be their offices and communal work environments—to the differing levels of need for comfort and safety regarding how much outside contact their children can be exposed to, the ability for employers to accommodate personal circumstances and craft personalized strategies and solutions will be critical both during and after the pandemic—but it will be no easy task.

There needs to be a cultural shift from employers simply tolerating parental roles to truly appreciating working parents. As the pandemic has brought to light just how big of a struggle parents have in balancing work responsibilities with the responsibility of raising children, there is hope that the plight of working parents becomes less taboo and a true appreciation and empathy can be gained for parents in the workplace. More importantly, this appreciation and support must come not only from direct supervisors, but from company leaders and the government, with more focus being put on equitable policies—most especially family leave policies and universal childcare initiatives—to cover the universal needs of parents and children moving forward.

It is the right time for fathers to be fully and transparently embracing their role. As fathers spend more and more necessary time with their children, the stigma around men taking advantage of parental leave policies that exist within their companies—if they exist—needs to be lifted, and men should be encouraged to assist their spouses, to co-parent and to take on the role as lead parent when necessary, with the support of their company and employers.

Employers need to adopt new practices to change the working environment for parents.

The emotional culture of the workplace needs to be changed. As perspectives on parenting have shifted and a new type of intimacy has appeared, the stigma of not only recognizing and accepting employees as parents, but also the taboo of having children in the workplace, needs to be lifted. Indeed, perhaps until more universal childcare policies can be put into place, a shift towards reinventing workspaces and corporate campuses to allow for and accommodate children when necessary should be encouraged in order for individuals to more easily tackle both work and parental responsibilities.

Paid parental leave and universal childcare need to be federal policy. While support from employers will be necessary on the individual level, the current system of having benefits such as paid parental leave and childcare benefits tied to company policies and not protected on the federal level has caused many employees to lose portability, as their careers and trajectories are often dictated as to whether or not they can receive much needed childcare benefits. Therefore, government public policy needs to be implemented through corporate intervention, company lobbying and companies across the board shifting towards a culture that engages and supports working parents.

We need to start by measuring parenting. In order to create better company and federal policy surrounding parenting, measuring how working parents move through organizations and whether or not employers are keeping them in the leadership pipelines and providing them with adequate support needs to become part of company leadership targets—and until we begin measuring such metrics, we will continue to have little to no line of sight into how to better support working parents.

The future for working parents is optimistic.

Despite the immense challenges working parents face balancing both work and childcare responsibilities in a time of crisis, the progress that has been made thus far and the surprising transparency and empathy COVID-19 has brought to the realities of parenting is cause for optimism that we will see exponential growth in policies and practices that better care for and support working parents in the next decade. Indeed, with many societies around the world already creating and maintaining healthy social constructs and ideas about parenting that serve as a support for company practices that care for the needs of working parents, we may already be entering into a new era where all companies have support systems in place for employees who work and parent simultaneously—and we may just be able to use this moment in history as a catalyst to continue to go better forward.

About
Winona Roylance
:
Winona Roylance is Diplomatic Courier's senior correspondent in Asia.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

The Evolving Role of Employers in Dealing with the Needs of Working Parents

October 21, 2020

W

hile the “working parent” has traditionally had to silently struggle in balancing work responsibilities and career advancement with raising and caring for children, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention and a new sense of empathy for the plight of those who work and parent at the same time. Indeed, as the traditional family model continues to shift away from the model of one working parent and one child-rearing parent to a newer model where both parents as well as single parents are required to work, policy at both the company and federal level will be necessary to address the needs of working parents, as well as a mindset and cultural shift towards destigmatizing many of the taboos surrounding working parents. However, as each individual employee experiences unique parental challenges, the ability for employers to address and support their working parents can prove difficult—especially during a pandemic. The question remains then: how can the role of employers evolve in order to better deal with the unique needs of working parents? And more importantly, what can be done on the governmental level to address the universal needs of parents in every industry?

Key Takeaways

Parental needs and employment needs are changing.

With both parental responsibilities and work responsibilities increasing for working parents, the support of their organizations, communities and the government will be necessary.

While the fundamental parental need to support children has not changed, the world we are raising our children in has. Though children require a certain set of needs that are universal—the need to be well sheltered, well fed and most of all well-loved—the evolving landscape of education and jobs has changed the kind of education children are expected to learn, as well as the necessity to be able to more flexibly respond to the way our world is rapidly evolving.

As such, parents are expected to take care of their children in a way that will prepare them for this unknown future—all while tackling it themselves. Indeed, with the increasing expectation for parents to do more for their children while also being expected to do more for their companies and employers, parents are facing increasing pressure in both their home and work lives—and with the pandemic suddenly seeing these two worlds collide, the need for parents to be supported by their companies, their communities and their governments is more critical than ever.

The pandemic is affecting different parents in different ways. Just as parents working remotely will have different needs than parents working on the frontline, the needs of parents with children of different ages—from parents of newborns, to parents with children in K-12, to parents with grown children and even parents taking care of their own parents—has affected working parents of all different backgrounds in very unique ways, and therefore, it is crucial that solutions be more individualized in order to empower parents who work as best as possible based on their unique circumstances and challenges.

There is a wide range of solutions, but it is not easy to understand how to adapt them individually to each parent’s unique needs. When it comes to recognizing the supports working parents need at this time, much of the responsibility is falling on the manager—on how they’re engaging with and supporting their employees in terms of work flexibility, time off and other benefits. However, with such a wide spectrum of employees with different needs—from parents with children in school to parents opting for homeschooling to single people with no children at all—understanding the needs of each individual employee can prove a daunting task for employers.

Indeed, with so many different supports needed for so many different circumstances of working parents, from needs such as a support community—which, for many parents, used to be their offices and communal work environments—to the differing levels of need for comfort and safety regarding how much outside contact their children can be exposed to, the ability for employers to accommodate personal circumstances and craft personalized strategies and solutions will be critical both during and after the pandemic—but it will be no easy task.

There needs to be a cultural shift from employers simply tolerating parental roles to truly appreciating working parents. As the pandemic has brought to light just how big of a struggle parents have in balancing work responsibilities with the responsibility of raising children, there is hope that the plight of working parents becomes less taboo and a true appreciation and empathy can be gained for parents in the workplace. More importantly, this appreciation and support must come not only from direct supervisors, but from company leaders and the government, with more focus being put on equitable policies—most especially family leave policies and universal childcare initiatives—to cover the universal needs of parents and children moving forward.

It is the right time for fathers to be fully and transparently embracing their role. As fathers spend more and more necessary time with their children, the stigma around men taking advantage of parental leave policies that exist within their companies—if they exist—needs to be lifted, and men should be encouraged to assist their spouses, to co-parent and to take on the role as lead parent when necessary, with the support of their company and employers.

Employers need to adopt new practices to change the working environment for parents.

The emotional culture of the workplace needs to be changed. As perspectives on parenting have shifted and a new type of intimacy has appeared, the stigma of not only recognizing and accepting employees as parents, but also the taboo of having children in the workplace, needs to be lifted. Indeed, perhaps until more universal childcare policies can be put into place, a shift towards reinventing workspaces and corporate campuses to allow for and accommodate children when necessary should be encouraged in order for individuals to more easily tackle both work and parental responsibilities.

Paid parental leave and universal childcare need to be federal policy. While support from employers will be necessary on the individual level, the current system of having benefits such as paid parental leave and childcare benefits tied to company policies and not protected on the federal level has caused many employees to lose portability, as their careers and trajectories are often dictated as to whether or not they can receive much needed childcare benefits. Therefore, government public policy needs to be implemented through corporate intervention, company lobbying and companies across the board shifting towards a culture that engages and supports working parents.

We need to start by measuring parenting. In order to create better company and federal policy surrounding parenting, measuring how working parents move through organizations and whether or not employers are keeping them in the leadership pipelines and providing them with adequate support needs to become part of company leadership targets—and until we begin measuring such metrics, we will continue to have little to no line of sight into how to better support working parents.

The future for working parents is optimistic.

Despite the immense challenges working parents face balancing both work and childcare responsibilities in a time of crisis, the progress that has been made thus far and the surprising transparency and empathy COVID-19 has brought to the realities of parenting is cause for optimism that we will see exponential growth in policies and practices that better care for and support working parents in the next decade. Indeed, with many societies around the world already creating and maintaining healthy social constructs and ideas about parenting that serve as a support for company practices that care for the needs of working parents, we may already be entering into a new era where all companies have support systems in place for employees who work and parent simultaneously—and we may just be able to use this moment in history as a catalyst to continue to go better forward.

About
Winona Roylance
:
Winona Roylance is Diplomatic Courier's senior correspondent in Asia.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.