Wellbeing Programmes for Parents in Your Organisation: 5 Best Practices
The pandemic may be over, but 2023 is proving to be no breeze for working parents and caregivers. Aside from bearing that baseline stress of juggling work and childcare, many are dealing with the ripple effects of Covid on their own and their child(ren)’s mental health – all while adjusting to rising living costs and changing work arrangements.
Can employers help make that weight more manageable? It’s definitely in their interest. Studies have shown that a majority of parents want their workplaces to support them when their children are struggling, and that working parents who don’t feel burnt out are 20 times more likely to want to stay in their job.
The good news is there’s a lot that organisations can do, and in APAC we’re seeing record levels of interest, innovation and investment going into workplace wellbeing programmes for parents and caregivers. Here are five ways in which our most progressive clients are making a positive difference.
1. Offer targeted wellbeing tools and resources
Working parents face some pretty unique pain points. Sleep deprivation during the newborn stage and beyond. Guilt over not spending enough time with their children. Concerns over excessive screen time and anxiety over how to manage meltdowns. Wellbeing programmes that speak directly to these pain points, and equip caregivers with practical tools and strategies, are bound to have a greater impact on their day-to-day stress levels than one-size-fits-all initiatives.
Our parental coaches recently ran a “Working Parenthood Toolkit” series at an asset management firm, featuring sessions such as “Kids and gadgets”, “Quality over quantity: Maximising limited time with children” and “Emotion coaching: Managing children’s big emotions”. 97.5% of over 300 participants said they felt better equipped to manage working parenthood after attending the sessions. Practical strategies they can start implementing right away is what it takes to make busy working parents say: “That support session was worth my very scarce time”.
2. Encourage peer support – at all levels
It takes a village to raise a child, the saying goes. With most full-time workers spending more time with colleagues than family, doesn’t it make sense for workplaces to provide part of that village? We also know that peer support contributes to people’s wellbeing and performance at work, so encouraging employees to connect with coworkers in similar life stages should be a no brainer.
Many large corporates attempt to do this through affinity networks or employee resource groups (ERGs) for parents, caregivers and/or families. But what if your company doesn’t have a relevant ERG, or has one that’s gone a bit dormant? An ongoing programme of small-group coaching sessions is an effective way of bringing together cohorts of employees on the road to parenthood – and reviving your existing family networks.
When we help multinational law and financial firms run quarterly small-group coaching sessions for employees preparing for (and returning from) parental leave, one of the highlights for participants is getting ideas from coworkers they’ve never met before on how to handle work conversations and scenarios that they can highly relate to.
An extra benefit of group coaching is: it’s an affordable way to get expert and peer support to junior staff, who often lack access to one-on-one coaching and other benefits that parents in more senior roles may enjoy.
3. Build a culture of compassion
1 in 3 working mothers in Hong Kong experience impolite treatment at work when returning from maternity leave, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission. And we know from research, and from our work with corporate employees across APAC, that even the most well-meaning managers struggle to say the right thing when a team member is expecting a baby, struggling with new parenthood, or going through fertility issues.
No matter the challenge or life stage that an employee is navigating – whether it’s parenthood, the menopause or the loss of a loved one – working in an empathetic environment can have a huge positive impact on their mental health (and job satisfaction). And yet, empathetic skill-building has traditionally been pigeonholed into learning and development training for managers. We encourage organisations that want to create supportive cultures to see empathy training as part of their wellbeing and DEI agenda, and to make it widely available to employees across all seniority levels.
4. Make your parental support programmes inclusive
3 in 4 working fathers feel that there’s not enough workplace support for dads, according to a survey by Promundo. In another multi-country study, only 1 in 3 respondents said their employers’ parental leave policy is inclusive of LGBTQIA+ families. Outside of work, there’s an entire set of social norms – and a parental education industry – that doesn’t cater to all parents and caregivers equally. Organisations have a unique chance to enable greater gender equality at work, and more balanced caregiving at home, by making their family policies and programmes more inclusive.
A good starting point is to offer parental support programmes that speak to primary and secondary caregivers. In our small-group coaching sessions for parental leavers and returners, more than 50% of attendees are consistently male, despite our clients’ initial fears that men wouldn’t sign up for sharing sessions. And our “Dad(s) Matters” seminar, designed to tackle the unique challenges of modern-day working fathers, is often described as the first of its kind even in the more progressive Global 500 companies we work with.
One extra piece of advice for wellbeing leaders: don’t let the high-bar of inclusion paralyse you! It’s hard to tick all the inclusion boxes these days, so aim for progress – not perfection. Something as small as asking your parental support provider to help you make the language and messaging of your internal comms more inclusive can go a long way.
5. Stick to it!
Working parenthood is a marathon, not a sprint. To notice a positive change in their wellbeing, and to see their employer’s parental support programmes as more than just a box-ticking exercise, parents and caregivers need ongoing support. Our clients who introduce long-term parental support programmes see higher participation and engagement rates, more positive feedback, and a broader spillover effect (for instance, other regions or business units replicating their proven programme) than those who go for sporadic initiatives.