In one study, 23% of working parents admitted they had been treated as though their work wasn’t a priority to them because of their parenting obligations. Other research suggests that employees identified as parents are sometimes perceived as less intelligent.
A new book champions parental skills — and “parenting loudly” — in the workplace. Below, we explain how.
What is “parenting loudly?”
Workplace wellbeing expert Lorna Borenstein is the CEO and Founder of Grokker and author of the new book, It’s Personal: The Business Case for Caring. She delves into the concept of “parenting loudly.”
Parenting loudly is simply having the ability to be your full self as a parent at work while maintaining a professional demeanor. This includes discussing your family openly (when appropriate) without fear that someone will treat you differently for being a parent.
“Employees need to see the struggles of their peers – and see that we’re also imperfect human beings grappling with similar second-shift challenges,” Lorna explains. “Encourage your senior and midlevel leadership teams to share their stories, because it will help set the groundwork for making the workplace a safe place for everyone to share stories about home life and to swap ideas about caretaking.”
Encouraging everyone to open up to share about themselves brings a sense of camaraderie to the team and a level of comfort to the workplace. Using adaptive skills you’ve learned from parenting in the workplace can make you a more valuable candidate, and feeling like you have just as many opportunities as a parent in your workplace is crucial.
How can a work environment adapt to parenting?
Is your company’s schedule policy flexible? Often, parents are stolen from regular working hours for family emergencies, household appointments, and school functions. Even if the parent has chosen to be less involved in their child’s life because of their work, it can be difficult to keep up with parent/teacher conferences, arranging for babysitters on in-service days, snow days, holidays, and other last-minute issues that may crop up.
Never mind parents who want some additional level of involvement in their child’s life, like volunteering as a room parent, being a chaperone on a field trip, or coaching a little league or dance team.
When these instances come up, parents who work at companies with less flexible policies and little wiggle room to miss in-office hours are relegated to backup plans, unpaid time off, and heightened levels of stress.
According to Borenstein, “flexible work schedules and allowing employees to work remotely, along with other innovative ‘benefits’ can create a genuine culture of caring [in the workplace.]”
When parents are allowed to run to school for a meeting or get home to pick their kids up from school, their lives are further enriched and their approach to work can happen more freely and in a positive mindset.
Parenting loudly increases productivity
“Research tells us employees deliver greater results when they are parents than when they are not,” explains Borenstein.
Having flexibility in your schedule and the autonomy to choose your hours, within reason, can increase your output, too.
In France, “84 percent of teleworkers stated that their productivity increased due to telework, and 81 percent said that their work was of higher quality than their office work.”
Largely, this was due to their ability to assess their own schedules and feel trusted by their employers. Even in an in-person working environment, having fewer restrictions around the calendar can help workers feel safe and trusted.
Because parents feel undervalued in their work environments, it can be difficult to create a rhythm for the company to produce maximum results. It can also cause employees to become resentful toward their work or environment, and become less productive. Integrating a more parent-friendly — and overarchingly human-friendly — environment can help the company achieve its goals long-term.
Parenting loudly can help your company save money
Companies that are not family-friendly are losing out. Whether hiring the wrong candidates because they are single, making rushed termination decisions when finding out employees are pregnant or making people log hours when they aren’t feeling particularly creative, managers could be missing the mark.
“Businesses are losing $530 billion a year for not creating environments that embrace the whole person,” says Borenstein. “That’s a staggering amount of money.”
Parenting loudly reduces turnover
When companies allow for a more flexible working environment for their employees, there are fewer reasons for them to collect guilt around their schedule. Putting in the time and effort happens at a natural pace for them, and they feel more comfortable in their role. When comfort is achieved, stress triggers are less likely to go off, making work more enjoyable. This can make parents feel valued and more willing to use their energy to support the team.
Parenting loudly can multiply your company’s talent
Companies that offer perks for parents and differing lifestyle-conscious opportunities will attract more applicants if and when jobs do come available. This way, you have a wider (and possibly better) pool of applicants to hire from.
Another interesting fact: As of 2019, 80% of workers polled would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible work options.
To create an open and engaging environment for everyone, ask yourself what you’re doing to create a more caring environment at work. How can your company embrace the whole person? You don’t have to be in a position of power to make a difference.
In the meantime, check out Ladders for more advice on how to enhance your work environment.