It is no secret that working parents — especially working mothers and single parents — struggle to strike a balance between work and family commitments.
The pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn created a perfect storm for them. Their homes were turned into offices, classrooms, and playgrounds while their social roles multiplied to include full-time caregivers, teacher’s assistants, and workers.
Zoom fatigue has become commonplace as marathon virtual meetings build new resilience for remote workers.
This double-shift phenomenon — the overlap of work responsibilities and family commitments — has seen a large shift in the labor force dynamics.
According to the World Economic Forum, “people with children in the household … face challenges in managing work and household responsibilities. Women with children in the household are more likely to report an increase in stress levels due to changes in work routines, the pressure of looking after the family during the pandemic, and inadequacies in their home-working environment.”
Therefore, as the new reality sets in, leaders and managers need to consider a critical group of their talent pipeline — working parents who are “today’s middle managers and tomorrow’s senior leaders that companies have invested heavily in developing and retaining,” said Krentz, Kos, Green, and Garcia-Alonso of the Boston Consulting Group.
After all, working parents are accustomed to juggling a million things at once, making them resilient, agile, and adaptable. Could parenthood during a pandemic further future-proofed them for the hybrid demands of the modern workplace?
As such, companies should commit themselves to re-architect their workplace culture to positively impact their employees with children.
A parent’s unconventional working style
Those with children in the household are more likely to work unconventional hours and are more likely to be concerned about their employment prospects.
Their concern about their employment prospects is because be it consciously or unconsciously, leaders and managers have a standardized expectation of the “ideal employee” — someone who is available 24/7.
Yet, the World Economic Forum asked, “to do quality work and be a good team member, is it always necessary to be accessible and to have a lightning-fast response time?”
“(A co-worker) has three boys, and I think they’re older, but it’s been nice for her to be working at home when they’re on school holidays. She’s often online, and she will text me [after hours] and say, ‘Hey, do you have a second?’ because she’s still working. Maybe she takes an extra break here and there, but then she makes up for it, and I trust that she’s going to do her job — and she does it,” shared Naomi Pinkerton, Head of Human Resources at BHG, a department store in Singapore.
Re-architecting the ‘ideal employee’ model
The traditional definition of an ideal employee will exclude working parents who are more than capable of contributing positively to the company if they are granted the autonomy to work unconventional hours and create clear boundaries between their work and family life.
Moving forward, companies need to re-architect their hiring and promotion practices.
Regardless of whether these practices are automated or not, current and future employees should be assessed and hired or promoted based on “their skills and potential, and not just their direct work experience and formal qualification,” according to Sue Duke, Head of Global Public Policy at LinkedIn.
Moreover, with the growing trend of lifelong learning in the new workplace, companies should provide reskilling and upskilling opportunities to their new and existing employees with children. This is especially helpful to working parents who may have had to take a leave of absence to care for their children during the pandemic.