Every week, over 50 million Americans balance working jobs and raising kids. And according to a 2015 study by Pew Research Center, 65 percent of college-educated parent-workers said it’s hard to do.
While it’s difficult for parents, studies also show kids are affected by how work impacts home life, too. Children, called by an Oxford study the “unseen stakeholders at work,” have better emotional health when parents simply have the belief that family should come first.
So, why don’t we strive to create cultures where parents want to work—and families can thrive in 2020? Let’s make work and home allies, rather than enemies.
Here are three ways we can do this: offering high flexibility, being remote-first (or at least options), and valuing our people’s lives by helping them turn off and engage at home.
One: Focus on Flexibility
Flexible work schedules have become increasingly popular. Companies have even found that they lead to increased output, better work relationships, and better communication.
For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers found that embracing what they called “everyday flexibility” had benefits that far outweighed any of the negative impacts they had foreseen.
The most “flexible” part of their culture is acknowledging that a flexible schedule means different things to different people.
Flexibility for a caregiver it might mean leaving work early to take an elderly relative to a doctor’s appointment. For a parent, it might mean a work-from-home day when school is cancelled.
A recent survey concluded that lack of flexibility places a significant burden on how employees take care of others, including children. Thirty-three percent of respondents said the traditional structure of their workday makes it hard for them to be the kind of parent they want to be.
With spending more time with kids and family as a top New Years resolution, this can lead to a disappointing start to the year. However, flexible scheduling can allow parents to make time for what matters most to them—their kids.
It’s obvious how this benefits employees, but it also benefits employers.
A 2014 Council of Economic Advisers study on the Economics of Workplace Flexibility concluded increased flexibility:
- Reduces absenteeism,
- Lowers turnover,
- Improves the health of workers,
- Increases productivity (in both the United States and Europe),
- And economies as a whole.
Flexible work is better for everyone.
Two: Remote-First (or Optional)
As a 100 percent remote company, I’ve taken great pains to understand this model’s impact—on culture and the business itself. It is extremely positive for both.
While remote working seems beneficial and logical in many ways, still some companies don’t always support or like the idea. Loss of oversight is one reason many managers don’t enjoy the idea of their employees working from home.
As the Microsoft Whitepaper, Work Without Walls, points out: “Business leaders assume employees who work remotely and take advantage of the policy are not really working. This is because of the loss of control. Employers lose direct oversight and cannot witness productivity firsthand.”
The problem arises when managers judge productivity by seeing team members at their desks rather measuring effectiveness.
While not all companies are on board, employees deeply value the option to work remotely. A 2017 study even found that the average worker was willing to accept an 8 percent pay cut for the option to work from home.
Offering remote work options isn’t just a benefit for employees. Companies can benefit in major ways too.
Remote work options open opportunities to generate revenue and save money. Stanford University stated that telecommute workers are 13 percent better at making the most of their time than traditional employees. But that’s not the only way companies can win big with the remote work phenomenon.
In addition to employees being more satisfied and productive from remote settings, businesses can scale back and save money while increasing revenue.
A recent study by Telework Research Network, found that businesses that let 100 employees work half of their time from home can save more than $1 million a year.
In “Workshifting Benefits: The Bottom Line,” TRN states that letting one employee work half of their time out of the office saves their company about $10,000 per year and the employee up to $6,800 per year.
A win-win if there has ever been one.
The study went on to show the specific areas where companies can save when adopting remote work policies. Almost half of the $1 million saved came from increased productivity from fewer interruptions, better time management and employees putting in more hours by working when they would have been commuting.
They saved another $300,000 on normal overhead costs like utilities, supplies, and leases. And the rest of the savings came from employees having fewer unscheduled absences, less sick time, and generally less employee turnover.
Each of these is an indicator of health—and healthy parents can be more engaged at home.
3. Value the “Non-Work” Life
This brings us to a key point, as leaders, we should value our team’s non-work life as much as their working time.
One of the simplest ways to do this is by setting clear boundaries that you don’t require an “always on” culture. This means no expectations of late-night emailing, checking Slack, or cramming other work in on the sidelines of the kids’ soccer games.
This is especially important for parents’ ability to actually feel like good parents.
Researchers in the Oxford study I referenced at the top of this article found that children were more likely to show behavioral problems when parents (especially fathers) were “overly involved psychologically in their careers.”
This is especially pronounced when parents are “noticeably absent” when on their digital devices.
As leaders, we certainly don’t make decisions for our team, but we can create cultures with healthy boundaries to help them succeed. And beyond communicating these boundaries, we need to model them, too.
As productivity specialist Maura Thomas said, “when the boss is working, the team feels like they should be working.”
Here’s more good news. Not only will we create amazing cultures for parent-workers, according to research, we can also see upticks in communication, better process development, and greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Help Parents Be There
I’ll never forget what one of our team members said about flexible work, that it allows her to “participate fully in being a parent while participating fully in being an employee.”
Ultimately, flexibility, remote options, and valuing our people’s non-work life enhances parents’ physical availability. And the four-year study I referenced above found children were “better off when parents cared about work as a source of challenge, creativity, and enjoyment, without regard to the time spent.” Parents ;
In other words, more office time does not necessarily equal more meaning.
Our kids are best off when parents are physically available to them—and parents are, too!
How are you creating a great work environment for parent-workers this year?