As workplaces evolve in real time, people are reconsidering their relationship with their work. Many employees spend more time in the office (virtual, hybrid, or live-action) than they do with their families.

Human resource leaders and benefits teams face increasing pressure to support employees and their dependents in new and meaningful ways. And working parents and families have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic.

Navigating work while raising children already presented working parents with unique challenges that negatively impacted career growth opportunities. Inconsistent child care, unexpected and frequent illnesses, and competing schedules are all pain points for working parents. Ignoring these challenges leads to fatigue and burnout.

Empathetic leaders empower their people with freedom of choice. Total well-being on your team means balancing professional and personal goals.

From offering flexibility to parent-friendly benefits, here are six ways employers can support working parents and families while creating a more inclusive workplace.

6 ways to support working parents

Consider your values, mission, and vision. Look at your competitive landscape. Do the employee benefits you’re offering align with parental priorities? Are you creating a work environment that inspires paths for career growth and delivers equitable pay to an employee regardless of parental status?

Working parents should not be disproportionately disadvantaged by choosing to have a family. That may have been true for many working parents three to five years ago, but no longer.

Working parents should not be disproportionately disadvantaged by choosing to have a family.

The “war for talent,” regardless of the recession and layoffs, has not impacted the fact that this is an employee market. Developing business continuity around the lives of the people supporting the company is mission-critical. Choices around parenting and career are up to the individual. People should not be penalized for their family composition.

1. Flexible work options

Flexibility in benefits for life (plus) is paramount. The world is changing, and people’s expectations are shifting along with it.

Workplace flexibility is the number one way to ensure you attract and retain top talent. Get a competitive advantage by acknowledging that work is something you do, not somewhere you go.

Flexible schedules

The workplace has not been 9 to 5 for some time. The pandemic emphasized flexible working hours while enabling people to remain incredible leaders, collaborators, and colleagues. Talent doesn’t go to waste simply because someone doesn’t fit a traditional workplace mold—whatever that was. The new world of flexible work arrangements is malleable and evolving. And five generations of employees now demand that.

Read more: Generational Differences in the Workplace

Embracing a family-friendly workplace culture means respecting that humans are multifaceted and recognizing what your people (and not just working parents) need. The life of a working parent with kids requires energy and focus. If you make space and support them, it’s amazing how creative and resourceful working parents can be.

Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood survey found that resolving issues around balancing career and motherhood decreases feelings of burnout in 30% of respondents. Trust and autonomy show employees that they are valued and appreciated.

Remote work

Post-pandemic, remote and hybrid work environments are more common—smart leaders know offering schedule and location flexibility to their people is essential. Done right, remote work and work-from-home options allow employees and companies to focus on what really matters.

Share the power of choice with your people. Teams can cooperatively identify opportunities to gather for collaboration, connection, and problem-solving. Additional work-related tasks can be completed where your people feel most productive. Focusing on results instead of where people work makes understanding and empathy central to your company culture.

2. Family care benefits

During the pandemic, women left the workforce at twice the rate of men. Why? Women are far more likely than men to assume childcare responsibilities. Around 10 million U.S. mothers living with their own school-age children were not actively working in January 2021, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Reimbursement for childcare services or onsite childcare signals employers are willing to go above and beyond to ensure all employees and their families feel supported to be successful at work.

3. Equitable parental leave policies

Leaders in today’s workplaces are expanding parental leave to offer working parents and caregivers generous and equitable paid time off. Providing financial security during a time when families need it most fosters a culture of gratitude and loyalty.

Extended and expanded parental leave is another benefit prized by working parents. Companies have every reason to give new fathers the same benefits they offer new mothers. According to a 2021 McKinsey report, “Paternity leave reduces the gender wage gap within households by increasing mothers’ wages in the short term and helping to increase total household financial well-being in the long term.”

Providing a longer paid parental leave period and offering flexibility in the timing of the leave, so parents don’t need to take leave concurrently, means participation is equalized and normalized.

4. A network of working parents

Fuel meaningful connections between your people. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) bond employees, break down silos, and encourage employee engagement. And working parent ERGs can host networking events and specifically support working parents no matter where they are by providing a platform for ideas and advice.

Create a stronger and more diverse workforce inclusive of working parents. Recruiting and retaining parents can be challenging, especially after a career pause. Candidates and new hires are looking for family-friendly workplace cultures and other parents in leadership roles. “Returnships” are a valuable way to support parents and help caregivers transition back to work by providing an on-ramp to paid work after a career pause.

Read also: 10 Employee Resource Group Event Ideas

5. Wellness benefits and mental health support

No matter how dedicated they may be to their jobs, people are more than employees. Working parents need to take care of their children, adult children may need to take care of aging parents, and we all need to take care of our own health and well-being.

A Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA) offers allowances and reimbursements for dependent care, reproductive health, adoption, and surrogacy support. And as it’s highly flexible, it can include breast milk shipping services, or other ways to support working parents returning to office. It can include self-care and wellness services to help address mental health, burnout, and parenting challenges.

Providing wellness benefits and supporting mental health inclusion will help relieve stress and demonstrate a commitment to supporting the whole person—not just their performance at work.

6. Inclusion, recognition, and psychological safety

Build an inclusive workplace culture not with happy hours and free lunches but by showing employees respect, trust, and empathy. Recognition of your working parents’ hard work and sacrifices will show a strong Return on Culture® investment.

Finally, encourage open communication to create a psychologically safe workplace. Your people need leadership and guidance to balance their family life and commitments with professional goals. Safe workplaces encourage seeking help and advice without fear, embarrassment, or punishment.

Create an inclusive space for working parents

Support for working parents is essential. Everyone feels welcome and valued in an inclusive workplace, regardless of family status. People-oriented companies empower individuals to set healthy boundaries and balance career ambitions with family responsibilities. With Espresa, companies can Power Great Workplaces® with our modularly designed Lifestyle Spending Account platform built to engage the entire HR culture ecosystem.

Ready to learn more about Espresa? Reach out to our team for a free demo!

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