It’s that time of year. Gift season. And you may be contemplating whether to send a fruit basket or bouquet, to recognize the people on your team. Let’s pause on that for a moment. After another trying year of pandemic chaos, working parents are drained. And need more.
They spend hours caring for their kids and households, long before the paid work begins. While navigating the constant pivots in their industries and communities. So what they really need, is meaningful change for their careers and lives to fit together.
Although parents crave better solutions, they will rarely share their challenges with you. Because parental bias is real. And it’s worse for women. Many of whom are still planning to downshift or leave their jobs. And because in most families, they’re still responsible for the bulk of the childcare and housework, they are more burned out than their male peers.
But there is a lot that you can do to reduce burnout and improve work/life harmony. So, give the gifts that will lead to happier people who feel more connected and supported at work.
1. Childcare, childcare, childcare!
The search for high quality and affordable childcare was always tricky. But the pandemic has constrained an already scarce resource. If your organization hasn’t considered it, now is the time to provide resources that make childcare accessible:
- Curate it. There are lots of companies that provide Employer plans to make finding care easier.
- Help pay for it. Childcare costs more than mortgages in most US cities.
- Offer back up. There is no form of childcare that is 100% available! So, help parents reduce the strain when schools or daycares inevitably close or their coverage falls through.
2. Ditto for Eldercare
Provide resources that can help your employees care for their parents. It’s often an emotional and complicated journey. You can curate resources and subsidize the costs of: senior care planning, in-home care and even virtual services, to reduce feelings of isolation.
3. And Provide Household Help
The volume of responsibilities to manage home and family changed exponentially during the pandemic. And let’s face it, it was already hard. No, you can’t help them with meal prep, groceries, shopping, or cleaning, but you CAN help to subsidize it. Remember when in-office conveniences like, dry cleaning and onsite gyms were a thing? With the prevalence of remote and hybrid work, most organizations aren’t doing that now. So, consider repurposing that spend to ease the workload at home.
4. Support Mental Healthcare
The struggle to manage anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions was always there. Pre-pandemic, mental health conditions effected nearly 1 in 5 adults. And access to providers, particularly for children, has always been a challenge. So, you can help people shortcut the long wait to find practitioners. Or offer mindfulness and meditation resources to support wellness practices.
5. Honor Work/Life Boundaries
Okay, here’s what that means. Fiercely protect people’s evenings, early mornings, weekends, vacations, and holidays. If your company has paid time off policies, then treat that time as ‘off.’ Yes and it’s the same when people go out on parental leave. Or pause to care for themselves or family through illness. For example, please use the ‘schedule send’ feature instead of sharing that email you wrote at 10 pm to your team. You can still do the work when it’s best for you. And they can see it during business hours! A win for everybody.
6. Create Psychological Safety
Encourage people to share their challenges by sharing yours. Do not pretend to be cheery when you are having a difficult day. Vulnerability is the new black. It creates trust. And it’s okay to show up human at work. Help to normalize that everyone has strengths, weaknesses and style differences. Celebrate different ways of thinking. And be intentional about creating complementary teams. Countless studies show that diverse groups out-innovate their homogenous counterparts.
7. Default to Flexibility
And no, that doesn’t only mean flexible hours. Or allowing remote work, although both are very important. Be flexible with your expectations. For example, if you usually assign a project with a 1-week deadline, consider stretching it out to 2 or 3 weeks. No one has the same time or mental energy that they did in 2019. Be generous with lead time for new projects. And proactively remove or revisit existing workloads before assigning new responsibilities. Assess whether goals are realistic with the resources available. And if they’re not, change them.
8. Provide Allyship
Are you moving mountains to get their voices heard and priorities elevated? Are you helping them to achieve and find venues for their professional goals? Make introductions within the organization or externally. Facilitate learning and growth for your people. Use your one-on-one meetings not only for professional status updates but career planning.
9. And Sponsorship
It’s more active than passive. And more powerful than mentorship to help people reach their potential. Leadership isn’t diverse in most industries. So, help to solve the inclusion problem. Parents are less likely to pursue certain types of career assignments, despite the leadership skills they bring. And Mothers and people of color, are still more likely to be pushed out of their positions.
10. Show Gratitude
I know, it sounds simple, and it is. But you may not realize how rarely it’s expressed at work. Let people know that you are grateful for their presence, energy, time, and willingness to evolve with you and your organization. A heartfelt thank you can speak volumes.
Burnout will not end with the celebration of the New Year. Work and caregiving haven’t mixed well together for decades. But we’re on the precipice of real change. And you can embrace a new era of leadership. One where leaders look out for those who are the most likely to be overlooked and overworked. And begin to encourage work/life integration.
I’m proud to collaborate with Cleo, an amazing support benefit for working families, on one of their newest products, Cleo for Work. It provides virtual live events to engage leaders, managers, and employees on topics like this to help build an inclusive culture. Learn more at HiCleo.com, where this article has also been published.