We’re living in uncertain times. This uncertainty has reached fever pitch for many individuals—especially parents. As schools and daycares close, parents are struggling to adapt to a new normal. In the wake of this uncertainty, it’s more important than ever for companies to recognize parents’ new realities and demonstrate compassion and empathy. Here are three tips from inspiring parents and leaders for how to manage the days ahead.
Find a support team.
Being a parent is rife with challenges in the best of times. When asked to also assume the role of an employee or teacher, the stress can be overwhelming.
When it comes to managing parenting and office work (virtual or in-person), building a strong support network is key. Shannon Spanhake, founder of Cleo—which partners with companies to offer benefits for working parents—witnessed the power of a strong support team firsthand after having her second child. A great team of supportive colleagues meant that she had “a lot more sanity and confidence navigating being a mom of two little ones and growing [her] career”.
It’s more important than ever to foster community among parents in your organization. In all likelihood, there is already some sort of parental group at your company—even if just an email chain. It’s time to amplify it, share resources, and provide a safe space for parents to support each other. Make sure the group is inclusive. As highlighted by Harvard Business Review, parents come in many forms—they are all genders, all sexual orientations, biological, adoptive, and all ages. A community should embrace all forms of parents.
Be sure to check out Cleo’s live and on-demand webinars and chats for both parents and employers such as Working Families in the Time of COVID-19 Practical Tips for Your Workforce.
Put on your oxygen mask first.
When Amy Henderson was pregnant with her third child, she struggled to stay afloat as she tried to take on too many responsibilities. Today, Amy is founding CEO of Tendlab—which provides workshops and in-depth consulting to companies and their parents at companies such as Salesforce and Accenture. Over the years, Amy has learned the importance of putting on her own oxygen mask first. That is, eating, sleeping, and bolstering one’s mental health should take priority over work and other tasks.
This is a time for self-care. As Amy has explained, “you can’t outperform your pre-parenting self if you’re under-resourced and need more self-care.”
Set up a designated workspace.
The workday today looks notably different than it did three weeks ago, especially for parents. Stacey Delo, Founder of Après—which provides career resources for women returning to work after a break or transitioning within the workforce—recommends setting up a designated workspace when working outside the office.
When you set up a designated workspace, it teaches your brain to associate the space with work. What’s more, it conditions your other household members to understand that when you’re in the office, you’re focusing and shouldn’t be unnecessarily disturbed. Stacey also recommends setting up designated workspaces for children who are doing distance learning. If possible, align everyone’s work hours to minimize distractions.
Read more tips from Stacey in her newly created guide for moms called, “How Not to Lose Your Mind When Working at Home (With Kids).” Apres is also offering free, live weekly Facebook coaching sessions for moms.
Now is the time to double down on the resources and support you provide the parents at your organization. Find avenues that align with your culture. At Asana, we’re supporting our parents with additional flex time and PTO, mental health and wellness programs, a parent resources project that includes crowdsourced best practices and tips for schooling from home, and active “Moms” and “Parents” Slack channels grounded in humor and a strong sense of solidarity and community.
Find strength in parenthood.
It’s important to recognize that parenting, while challenging, is enormously rewarding, in good times and hard. In her research, Amy has learned that engaged parents are likely to develop “an enhanced capacity to anchor feelings in the present moment, resonate with others’ pain and emotions, simulate others’ goals and actions in one’s own brain, and collaborate well with others.” Parenthood can also heighten ambition and motivation. Research by Accenture has found that working mothers have as much, or more, career ambition as women without children. In fact, 70 percent of working mothers in the U.S. aspire to senior leadership positions, as compared to 67 percent of women without children.
What about working dads? I analyzed Great Place to Work for All (GPTWFA) top ten list of Best Workplaces for Women and found that all of the male CEOs shared one trait—they all had daughters. Coincidence? I think not. Parenting breeds empathy. Empathy is paramount in business—and it’s more important now than ever. Let’s embrace parenthood, recognize parents’ realities, and harness their empathy for others.