10 Tips to be Working Parent Friendly
Updated: Nov 2, 2018
Allow me to start by saying that I am not a working parent. My experience with children is next to nonexistent. I do not claim to understand the struggle of the working parent, or the working single-parent, though I do try to empathize.
My perspective comes from having worked with these amazing people and witnessing their struggle to do-it-all. My challenge to each of you is to look for ways to humanize the space you occupy and make life easier for those around you. If we are working efficiently, prioritizing appropriately, and maintaining focus, there is no reason we cannot each enjoy a better work-life balance.
This article is not targeted toward the working-mom or working-dad, but to my fellow professionals who do not have children. The purpose is to remind each of us that there is more to life than what takes places inside the walls of ABC, Inc.; to remind each of us that working longer does not necessarily make people more productive. We should all strive to empathize with the fellow riders on this journey through life and do our best to make things easier on each other where we can.
An excellent place to start may very well be with the 10 Tips to be Working-Parent-Friendly that follow.
1. Respect the Morning
Breakfast. Daycare. School. Gym. Traffic. There is a lot to get done before that first morning meeting, and we are all probably starting with the same 5:30-alarm. For me, when the alarm sounds, I can wake up, enjoy a few minutes of deep breathing, and a few more of stretching, before I brush my teeth and suit up for my morning 20-mile cycle ride. Then it’s coffee, breakfast, morning grooming, and to the office by 8.
Sound like a fantasy? Likely so to our friends who have to wash, dress, feed, and shuttle several small humans before taking care of their own basic needs each morning.
Let’s help them out. It is likely a struggle for them to make it to the office by 9, so why sabotage their day? We all know how nerve-rattling it can be to arrive late to a meeting.
Be courteous! No meetings before 9. And, if you must, include dial-in access.
2. Respect the Lunch
Aside from lunch with a prospective client, I cannot remember the last time I took a break in the day for the midday meal. Does that mean I should schedule meetings over the time? Not likely.
For many of our have-spawned friends, the sacred lunch hour represents many things. It could be an opportunity to be the snack-parent for their child’s class; it could be an opportunity to spend a few extra minutes with their child or attend a concert. At the very least, it could be the first moment they have had to collect their thoughts since that 5:30-alarm sounded.
Maybe you too could (and by could, I mean SHOULD) take the opportunity for a little break yourself. The chance for a short mental reset would do your focus and creative energy well. Maybe I should take my advice.
3. Respect 4:30
Did you know that parents can be fined for picking their children up late at daycare? I didn’t. Did you know how aggravating it can be to those with obligations when your meeting ending at 5 goes 15 minutes over because you want to talk about the workout you’re taking on at 6:30? I didn’t, but I do now.
4:30 is it. Do not schedule anything after this time, though I do understand how tempting it can be. Create this buffer so that the working parents can close out for the day, organize for tomorrow, and gather their children on time.
As for you? This is a great time to polish those decks, read a trade journal or blog post, or even do some journaling of your own. Exercise your mind, and results will follow.
4. Be WFH Friendly
Schools are the breeding ground for nasty bugs so relentless that even the CDC gets squeamish. Do you want that in the office? I know I don’t. Give your working parents the autonomy and technology they need to feel empowered and productive when they need to work from home a day or two. Disgusting GI bugs aside, many studies have suggested that the productivity of remote workers far exceeds those who are in the office. Who knows, a day here-and-there from the house/coffee shop/beach may give you a boost as well.
5. Mandatory Happy Hour
These are not the 1960’s, and this is not Mad Men. Though I have formed many great bonds over an excellent Rye, we need to be respectful of the fact that not everyone can add a few extra hours to the day and come home smelling like a liquor cabinet. Especially last minute.
If you do intend to schedule a happy hour with your team, make sure that you do so well in advance, and even so, be sensitive to the fact that yet still not everyone will be able to make it. If someone says that they cannot attend, do not make them feel bad, and do not make business decisions without them. Keep work at work, and happy hour happy.
6. Schedule Team Building During Business Hours
There are few things as effective in building team cohesiveness as a team building event. Such events build trust camaraderie and a general sense of belonging. Also, they should take place during work hours (I promise, the return will far exceed the investment.)
Scheduling team building outside of regular business hours sends the wrong message about the value of the event and is likely shifting the undue burden to the family folks. Go indoor skydiving, zip lining, or to an escape room – HAVE FUN – but, be sure to schedule it during regular business hours.
7. Remote Participation for Training
I recently ran into an issue that has made me rethink my “mandatory face-to-face training” policy. Working with a client who has several team members who are married to deployed service members, they are just unable to travel to attend the team training event. What kind of a trainer would I be to exclude these people from a training and team development event because of their circumstance? A pretty crummy one. That kind.
This is 2018, and we have some pretty fantastic virtualization tools, such as those from Double Robotics. Though nothing beats the experience delivered through physical presence, there are always circumstances that should make us reconsider the policy, primarily when they benefit families.
8. Alternatives to Travel
As a consultant who has traveled for more than a decade (think George Clooney in “Up in the Air”) I can agree that nothing beats the benefits of air/hotel/car status. That is until literally, anything more important comes along.
For many of us, business travel is an empowering and liberating perk-of-the-job. For others, it is a horror to be avoided at all costs. Overnight-care, school, the stress; and what about the dog?
Sometimes business travel is unavoidable, but we need to offer as much flexibility to the parents in the office as possible. We also need to create a team-centered environment where travel obligations can be shared, without guilt.
9. The 40-Hour Week
You should not be working more than 40 hours per week. Again, unless you are bootstrapping, YOU, SHOULD NOT, BE WORKING MORE THAN 40 HOURS PER WEEK.
Ask anyone who works a well-structured, focused, and prioritized 40: there isn’t much left in the knowledge tanks at the end of the week. As Dan Pink describes in his book “When,” safety, quality, and productivity begin to diminish when we push beyond this barrier.
Bad things aside, we should be evaluating others based on their contributions, not the number of hours they spend in their seat. I intentionally do not keep track of the hours people work. What I do focus on is on the person’s ability to meet their commitments and the quality of their work. Nothing else matters to me.
Come in (or WFH), crush your tasks, and go live life. That’s what we’re all here for, right? To live (and not in a corporate jail cell.)
10. Empathy: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
The most important gift we can give our colleagues, parents or otherwise, is empathy. Understand that there is a great deal that you do not understand about those around you.
We all lead complicated lives, and sometimes our problems and pressures can creep into the workspace. If that happens to someone close to you, or even you, do not hold their bad day/week/month against them. Talk to them, encourage time away, be supportive.
Each one of use leads a complicated life. Imagine how complicated it must be for those who are responsible for the lives of many.