In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies expanded their benefit offerings for employees with things like additional time off, flexible work options, caregiver support, expanded mental health offerings and virtual resources. That's great, right? Well, maybe.
A recent survey by Catalyst showed almost half of workers (42%) don't feel comfortable taking advantage of their expanded benefits. This survey polled 1,000 working parents in the U.S. I'd be curious to hear the breakdown of those surveyed between men and women. There could be a few things driving this:
Did these employees feel comfortable using similar benefits prior to the pandemic?
What's the ratio of parents to non-parents in the organization?
How were working parents and mothers in particular, supported prior to COVID-19?
How many executives are women and how many are parents?
I think you see where I'm going with this. Here are a handful of situations I faced back in my corporate days where I was given a hard time for one reason or another:
I had to leave by 4:30 one day a week to get to Boston from Framingham for an evening grad school class, even though I was always the first person in the office in the morning.
Actually using the company's tuition reimbursement program (different company than the one previously referenced).
Asked to document time spent at my ob/gyn appointments when I was pregnant (I was a salaried employee).
Had to pump in a bathroom or an empty office that didn't lock.
When I had to leave by 5:30 a few days a week to pick up my daughters from day care before the day care closed.
This doesn't include times that I had to leave early or work from home because my daughters were sick, or because I came in late due to their doctor's appointments. I don't need to explain myself to other working moms--we've all been there and we all have our stories. This is the reason why working parents don't use these benefits--because if you use them, people notice.
The best bosses I ever had were other working moms with young kids who had a spouse or partner that also worked. They got it because they were in it too. They understood that things come up but they knew I'd get my work done. And you know what? It was just work--it would still be there tomorrow.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, working parents are at even more of a disadvantage--many employees are still remote, but I can't imagine how they're handling it if they need to be back in the office. If you have kids in public school (private school abides by different rules), you're lucky if your kids are physically in-school half the time. And if they are in physical school, the hours have been cut. Oh, and there aren't many after school options these days either.
Many people are nervous about what will happen to the economy, and parents don't need to stick out as somebody that isn't performing "up to par" or God forbid, actually using the benefits that are offered to employees.
At the end of the day, it's leadership that sets the tone for a company. HR can come up with benefits that are "approved" by the C-level, but leadership sets the tone for whether these are offered to check items off of a list or because they actually support the benefits. If leadership evaluates their employees by time spent in a (now virtual) seat, working parents will never win.
What benefits has your company introduced since the pandemic? Do you feel like your organization supports working parents?