Prioritize workplace community and watch the ripples grow
Humans aren’t meant to parent alone.
We rely on other parents, our families, our work colleagues, friends, and professionals every day in our parenting journey.
Yet, too often, becoming a new parent can feel incredibly isolating. Especially when returning to work.
While on parental leave, parents may have found support networks: perhaps new moms groups, storytime at libraries, grandparents, postpartum doulas, or stay-at-home neighborhood parents.
This community is invaluable for the parents and the baby. Studies show that having a community, a social network that we can rely on, is one of the best ways to reduce postpartum stress and the emotional complications that come with it. With 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety, creating community is vital to mental health.
When returning to work, all of these supports dissipate. The lack of connection with other parents can cause employees to question their desire to be at work and even their ability to be a parent and have a career.
A workplace-based community is the #1 support system for parents when they return after parental leave. And the ripple effect that happens when you have a team of happy, confident working parents contributing to a company’s mission? Now that’s powerful.
Although there isn’t great data (yet) about how many people returning to work still struggling with postpartum mood disorders, and even less data about how it impacts presenteeism and absenteeism, it is clear that building a community in the workplace for expectant and new parents is good for parents, good for productivity, and good for business. Consider that nearly 20% of new moms opt out of the workforce, women that are valuable to their company. How many of those moms might make a different decision if they were feeling valued and supported?
In many companies, parent communities are facilitated by an Employee Resource Group (aka Affinity Group, or Business Resource Group), DEI teams, or human resources. Sometimes it is run by a parent who just wants to make a difference to other parents in the organization. The groups can be as simple as a Slack channel dedicated to caregivers and families or it can be a more robust organization that provides education, activities, resources, and advocacy.
More and more organizations are building employee networks of caregivers which is encouraging to see. ERGs are on the rise and the challenges brought by COVID has put the struggle of parents and caregivers front and center.
If your organization is implementing, growing, or revamping the parent or caregiver groups, be intentional about including expectant and new parents. This extra effort will pay dividends in terms of retaining employees and increasing engagement - especially from those employees who are going through vulnerable life transitions.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and your organization as you move forward:
Does your parent community connect with expectant and new parents?
It doesn’t have to be a lot - we know that Family and Caregiver ERGs have a wide variety of member needs and interests and can’t be exclusively for new parents. However, simply welcoming them and providing a safe space to connect goes a long way. Here are some simple ways to encourage engagement, starting with a simple chat group.
Does your ERG have programming specifically for expectant and new parents?
Organizations approach this transition in a variety of ways and many have been very creative in how they provide support and programming specifically for expectant parents and employees returning from parental leave. Education, coaching, and events are just the tip of what is possible. The attention given prenatally and in the postpartum period can influence a parent’s decision to return after leave or start shopping for a new job.
Are you providing expectant and new parents with timely, comprehensive information?
Parents-to-be want to know early what they can expect from their company. The information they want ASAP is around benefits, leave policies, and what supports are available, including ERGs and other family-forward initiatives. Programs like Soutiens’ Baby Onboarding can be a great way to assure parents that you are there for them and provide the info they need.
Are parents taking advantage of the opportunities your community offers?
Unfortunately some communities are a “check in the box” so the company can say they have parent friendly practices. If you want your program to be meaningful and integrated into the culture, make sure parents are aware and encouraged to use it. If parents are not utilizing your ERG, start asking questions and digging deeper. What are their needs? Is that in line with what the community offers? Are employees aware of the opportunities? Sometimes a small tweak can make all the difference.
Community is one of the core values at Soutiens. We believe in the power of community and its ability to strengthen companies and families. If you want to learn more about how we work with organizations to build community and create caring cultures, schedule a virtual cup of coffee with Sarah or Amanda today.