Inspiration for this blog from our Head of CSR, Gemma Branney, was taken from a roundtable discussion hosted by working parents to understand the challenges, and opportunities, created by remote working.
A few years ago, a well-known greeting card producer put out fake job adverts for a Director of Operations role. During a series of real interviews, they listed out a series of seemingly impossible asks such as 24/7 availability, increased workload around the holidays and zero pay to prospective candidates – all of whom quickly rejected the opportunity before it was revealed that billions of people around the world currently hold this position.
Beyond peddling Mother’s Day cards, this example does a great job of highlighting the sheer graft that parenting takes. What it doesn’t address, however, is the fact that, for working parents, it’s delivered alongside a day job.
Like many working parents, I find it tough to balance work and home life even when there’s the support of school and childcare. Lockdown has presented a whole new challenge. A few week’s ago, I sat down with colleagues from across the globe to share stories and experiences of being both a parent and a professional during these extraordinary times.
Let go of the perfect picture you had in your head
A common theme that we’d all experienced was adjusting what we’d expected life in lockdown to be like to reflect reality. Plans for structure, keeping kids active, motivated, and engaged must all be tempered to what’s achievable and reasonable for young minds – and our mental health as parents.
We must also learn to cut ourselves some slack on the work front too. At times, it’s unreasonable to expect that we can continue to deliver the same hours and outputs whilst also caring for our family full-time. And of course, remaining flexible is critical because even when the world begins to open back up, we’ll still have to manage inconsistent scheduling, for example, with schools returning part time.
Be ready to speak up. But lead with listening
Organisations always have a duty to support their people, and while most companies will have created policies to support working parents, these will likely need to be revisited and revised under the lens of increased remote and flexible working.
As working parents, we need to be prepared to vocalise our individual needs to find new ways of working that work for us, and the companies we represent. As leaders, we need to keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach or solution, so it’s only by listening to the individuals in our teams and understanding their circumstances, that we can truly offer inclusive working practices.
This is our opportunity to rip up the rule book
Few of us believe that this increased acceptance of remote and flexible working is a short-term fad. Most of our global clients also agree that this trend is here to stay.
This presents a unique opportunity for us to change the dialogue, so that it is considered best practice to ask about flexible working arrangements at a job interview, so that we can speak openly to our line managers and colleagues about making time for childcare. So that many of the things that cause anxiety for working parents are erased forever.
Importantly, this is the opportunity for all of us to rip up the rule book and find a balance between work and home life – whatever our circumstances.
Watch the ‘what does the new normal mean for working parents’ discussion in full and view upcoming virtual events here.