Earlier in April, NBC News had a story on how the pandemic finally made employers recognize the importance of providing caregiver benefits. This story has continued to stick with me as we continue to emerge from the pandemic and employers start to implement their post-pandemic work life.
The Straw That Broke the Camel's Back
The pandemic exposed many things in our society, but one glaring issue was the challenge that working parents face balancing their work life and home life. With remote learning, millions of moms left the workforce because they just couldn't manage both their kids' remote schooling and their own work. When I was in the corporate world, I rarely felt supported by my employer as a working mother and it's still a topic that gets me fired up.
The fact that so many moms left demonstrates the lack of support that employers provided. One of the quotes that resonated for me (though a bit awkwardly worded) from this article was, "I think you’re starting to see smart companies recognize that if they want to be the best possible company they can be, which means having a diverse set of individuals leading their organization, that it's going to take an active effort to get women back into the pipeline and back into the office.” Yes! But, who are these smart employers and what are they going to do to get women back in the office?
The topic of women balancing home and work is not a new topic. Any working mom could tell you it was hard before the pandemic. But the pandemic was a perfect storm that made balancing both unsustainable. Again, because employers just didn't or couldn't provide the support that these moms needed.
What's the intent behind the benefits?
The article discussed some of the benefits companies are looking to offer to their employees such as childcare or elder care subsidies, or onsite child care. While these are certainly great to offer, it goes back to something I've previously discussed--these benefits need to be offered with sincerity because the employer expects and wants their employees to use these benefits. It needs to be about more than checking a box on the benefits list.
The article also discussed flexibility, and while most parents wouldn't turn away a subsidy, at the end of the day, this is the solution. Most employees want to be treated as grown-ups. Employees have had over a year to demonstrate they can get their work done at home. Did all employees do their work? Of course not, and they should be dealt with accordingly. But those people shouldn't ruin it for the majority that probably did just fine.
Parents are used to multi-tasking and your working parents (ahem, moms) will be focused when they're working, but they need to be offered flexibility (and grace) that things come up. These parents will come back and finish their work, but non-traditional schedules need to be considered.
Many employers were thrown in the remote workforce experiment and have been in it for over a year. If they're not wise to the advantages of flexibility and compassion now, they never will be. Smart companies already realize the value that working parents bring to the table and will accept that providing flexibility and treating their employees like adults can ultimately lead to better outcomes for their company. With any luck these are the companies that will ultimately be successful.