Traditionally, work and family are two very separate worlds that don't talk to each other.
Here we explore how blurring the line between them can help working families and benefit business.
Examples of ‘superhuman’ mums who apparently effortlessly balance the demands of young children with work commitments are few and far between:
Jacinda Ardern the New Zealand Prime Minister – made history when she brought her baby, Neve, to a UN general assembly meeting
Jo Swinson the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats – brought her 11 week old son into the House of Commons Chamber for the closing speeches of a debate
While they are championed by the majority, they are also vilified by many. Often, as in so many of these situations, the mother is damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.
For the rest of us mere mortals, struggling to juggle the daily grind of work and family is hard enough - and on some days we might fail more spectacularly than others.
SHOULD WE LET MORE ‘FAMILY’ INTO WORK?
Like it or not, employees come with a family network in tow that has a bearing on their work life – not just on how well they perform but also career decisions such as whether to leave a job or stick it out.
Work initiatives that bring the family ‘on-side’ are not only likely to lead to longer tenure, but research also shows that a family-friendly workplace increases employee morale, job satisfaction, well-being and productivity, while reducing absenteeism and disengagement.
Examples of family friendly work initiatives include:
Onsite Childcare – Meaning parents don’t have to adjust their hours to juggle the childcare commute
Breastfeeding at Work – This requires some simple changes to be made at work but many feel too awkward or embarrassed to bring this up with their manager
Bring Your Kids to Work Day – An annual feel good exercise and chance for the kids to see where their parents spend most of their day
Bring Your Parents to Work Day – My personal favourite (although I will need to wait a while for this one), the Bring You Parents to Work Day is for parents who don’t understand what their adult kids actually do!
Flexitime – Offering flexibility for employees to drop kids off to school in the morning, make time for a school performance or leave a little early to go away for the weekend
Family friendly HR policies – Such as formal flexible or agile working arrangements, family emergency days or the opportunity to buy more holiday
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT KIDS
While no-one would advocate a daily family free-for-all, the benefits of a family-friendly workplace and culture are certainly worth striving for. The key is to be consistent in what you’re offering to avoid claims of favouritism.
It’s not just those with kids though that benefit from greater flexibility at work. With 25% of the population predicted to be 65 or over by 2066 employers will need to start thinking outside-the-box when it comes to supporting employees who are expected to care on a medium to long-term basis for older relatives.
How do you juggle work and family? What family friendly policies does your employer offer? We’d love to hear from you.
Email us your thoughts.