Can you be parent-friendly in a fast-paced, highly structured work environment?

In a fast-paced, highly structured work environment your employees are in “heads down, get work done” mode. Perhaps your employees work in with a mandated (or not-mandated-but-definitely-expected) number of hours in the office, and the environment is one of high-pressure/high-stakes.

Or maybe your office is full of hourly employees, and time IS money.

Lunch breaks, if people take them, are short.

There is no time for fun and games.

Employees know each other, but there’s little emphasis on developing deep, meaningful relationships.

And yet, you recognize that employees are human - they’re people with lives outside of the workplace. You have employees who are working parents, who still need to find ways of having quality time with their children each night (probably between 6:45 and 6:50 pm, those beautiful 5 minutes after dinner and before bedtime).

Can you create a parent-friendly environment in these conditions? Absolutely. Here are 5 ways to help build it.

Know your employee experience. Do you know what percentage of your workforce identifies as a working parent? What hurdles do they face? How their caregiving responsibilities impact their productivity? How work hours affect commute experiences? Creating a parent-friendly workplace starts with a basic understanding of what life is like in your working parents’ shoes and capturing data that will help inform policies down the line.

Actively promote and encourage employees to utilize benefits and perks that are supportive of working parents. Your benefits and perks are designed to make the work/life experience easier for your employees. From paid parental leave to backup childcare services, you’re getting a higher rate of return from present, engaged employees who are ready to work if employees are utilizing what you offer. Management has a role to play, too. Your employees will feel comfortable taking advantage of your benefits and perks if they see utilization, encouragement, and support from all levels.

Be consistent. In your company’s expectations and communication of policies, your working parent employees should have similar experiences, regardless of who their manager is. Clear policies and expectations outline the experience for employees, teams, and managers and will relieve any doubt, confusion, or unintentional biases. Documentation of policies should be easily accessible and easily understood. Don’t waste valuable time by being complex or verbose. However, don’t make policies so specific that you remove any ability to modify for individual cases. No two parenting situations are identical; if at all possible, leave a little room for discretion and trust.

Respect time. If your employees to put in 60 hour work weeks, don’t ask them to be available on weekends - unless it’s absolutely necessary. Similarly, if your office has strict “in-office” hours, don’t ask employees to be available after-hours. Instead, encourage employees to stick hard and fast to work/home boundaries. And when you do have employees who go above and beyond the expected work time frame, please don’t forget to thank them. Their time, and yours, is precious.

Create an opportunity for connection. Even if lunches are short, you can find opportunities for working parents to get to know each other. Sponsor a quarterly working parents lunch. Start a company-wide chat channel for working parents. Create an environment where working parents feel a connection to their colleagues or the work they’re doing. The ripple effect that happens when you have a team of happy, confident working parents contributing to a company’s mission? That’s powerful.

Taking steps towards a more parent-friendly culture can start with setting intentions and making small changes. If you are ready to take a bigger step Soutiens is here to help.