This coming week sees the start a new school year for many children across Australia. Whilst there will be plenty of excitement and tears (not just from the children) here are some thoughts on how organisations can support our working parents.
Mind your bias
When we think of workplace flexibility for parents of school-aged children, there might be an immediate assumption to refer to mothers. Whilst mums may take on the primary caring responsibilities in most families, it is important to provide same opportunities for dads and secondary carers or parents who take active role in childcare responsibilities.
Of the 6.2 million couple families in Australia, 1 in 7 families (14.2%) are one-parent families and 1.7% are same-sex couples (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2022). So, let’s not assume that only mum needs time off for schools runs, or that working dads have all the support at home. Great Place To Work ®️️ organisations are cognisant of all variations of modern families and provide equal workplace flexibility for all families.
Asynchronous collaboration can be just as effective
In the new normal of hybrid work arrangements, and improving workplace culture, there’s been an increased focus on collaboration. We now accept that virtual and asynchronous collaboration can work just as effectively.
Asynchronous collaboration means that team members can communicate and contribute without an expectation of an immediate response. Everyone can work together on the same project using several available shared platform options (i.e., cloud-based or enterprise shared drive) at times when they can focus and be most productive. In the case of working parents, it might be in the evenings, after they’ve attended to their children’s needs. The key to success is having clear expectations and understanding on response times (i.e., must respond within 8 hours) and deadlines.
If you do require synchronous collaborative time, host meetings during core working hours when everyone can attend, rather than during peak drop off and pick up times.
It’s a give and take Benefits For All™️
Since we are discussing return to school the focus automatically goes to parents. In reality, workplace flexibility is a benefit For All™️. Great organisations recognise employees have a life outside of work and aim to provide equal work conditions regardless of home responsibilities so they can still achieve their personal goals and professional goals. As we encourage the workforce to adjust their attitudes and schedules to support working parents, also remind others that they have the same flexibility. For example, employees with elders can take time off to attend to their parents’ medical needs or run errands; employees without responsibilities for children or elders may like to take leave for volunteering work or may simply like to start and finish early/late based on their personal commitments or productivity.
And as for parents taking leave during the school holidays, there are others who appreciate tag-teaming annual leave schedule to benefit from holidaying during the low season to avoid children, crowds and premium prices on travel and accommodation costs. So, encourage your teams to forward plan and chat with others so everyone can benefit equally.
We wish you all a wonderful start to the school year, whether you are parents or not, there is always a great lesson learned when considering the home life of others whilst at work.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2022, October 18). Labour Force Status of Families. Retrieved from Australian Bureau of Statistics: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-status-families/latest-release
Valentina brings 25 years of experience in organisational development, people and culture, and teaching and training experience from across higher education, government and private sectors in Australia and Myanmar (Burma). In the past 15+ years, she has been focused on employee engagement, workplace culture, leadership development and strategic planning. Her recent HR leadership roles included heading up functional HR teams in large and complex organisations, including crisis management during the pandemic and political unrest. She exercises her passion for people development by teaching, mentoring and coaching young HR professionals in the areas of HR, management and career planning. Valentina is a strong advocate for full-person wellness, and achieves balance through yoga, outdoor activities, cooking and enjoys spending time with family and friends.