Our wishes for 2021: peace, happiness, and increased employer support for working parents
It’s that time of year again when we assess the year we’re wrapping up and look forward to the year ahead of us in anticipation of good things to come. After all, 2021 has to be better, right?
As parents ourselves, we understand deeply the impacts the pandemic has had on families and working parents. As we look toward 2021, here are some of the things on our wish list:
1. Defined flexibility.
It’s one thing for an organization to say they’re flexible, but it’s a totally separate thing to have it defined and clearly laid out equitably among departments. (For example, unlimited PTO. Please. In the absence of some pretty clear employee/manager guardrails, we all know how this plays out.) If your organization is looking to find flexibility in 2021, make sure there are clear policies and equitable application across the boards.
2. Empathy in action.
The phrase “leading with empathy” is hot right now, but we’re curious how this will translate to increased awareness and sensitivity to the challenges parents are facing in the workplace. How do you put empathy into action? For starters, don’t make significant changes to working arrangements without ample lead-up time. As organizations look to bring workers back to the office, make sure you’re giving your workforce plenty of head’s up notice. With many school districts in remote or hybrid schedules, parents may need time to make alternative childcare arrangements.
3. And speaking of childcare, we want to see childcare revolutionized.
The pandemic has only highlighted the need for access to affordable, equitable childcare. This isn’t new. It’s been a challenge for years. And we’re ready to see meaningful change. We’re looking for new models of childcare, new ways to pay for it, and new meaningful benefits organizations can offer for families. If your workforce matters to you, their children should matter to you, too.
4. Support for those doing the hard work.
In our experience, the most impactful and efficient Employee Resource Groups, Affinity Groups, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives are those that have both executive support and financial backing. Don’t take advantage of people in your organization who are looking to make things better. Reward them with high-ranking advocates and meaningful budgets.
5. Access to paid parental leave.
This benefit has been picking up traction - especially here in Massachusetts where the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act is set to take effect in January. We’d like to see organizations not just offer it but encourage parents to utilize it in conjunction with other “New Parent” benefits. Supporting the transition from expectant parent to working parent is good for parents, babies, and organizations.
And finally, we wish for sustainable and equitable systems to be implemented that bring all voices to the table. Parental inclusion isn’t just about responding to the needs of parents of children of different ages; it’s about single parents, parents of color, LGBTQ parents, parents of children with special needs, adoptive and foster parents. And applied on a bigger level, we hope organizations drop the “diversity theater” act, and rethink how the system is structured. Who benefits the most? Who is short-changed? What voices are missing?
Let 2021 be the year of the working parent. After all that 2020 has thrown at us, it’s the least the universe could do.