Picture this: you’ve welcomed your sweet little bundle of joy and bonded with your baby for a whole three months (or more, depending on your employer). And now, you’re getting ready to get back to the other daily grind: your corporate job. You’ve prepared everything your little one might need when you’re away for the day. You bought those tiny baby food jars and classy start up sets for your baby, installed that baby monitor, secured a reliable childcare provider, and more. Basically, anything you need to take care of before you return to work. But when you do return to the office, you find that the transition from your maternity leave back to the usual office life is not that simple.
You are not alone. Getting back to the daily grind of building a career is challenging for most moms. Of course, no one comes to the office expecting it to be a cake walk, but most of the time, employers tend to overlook the fact that working moms have two full-time jobs: a career woman and a mother. This only means that they need their employers’ support to be effective in both roles.
Based on a survey among working women with children under 3 years old, here are some simple things employers can do to support the working moms in their company.
8 Specific Ways Moms Need Support from Their Employer
1. Work flexibility
59% of respondents believe that their employers should offer position flexibility. This allows for better time management and may even improve cross-functional coordination. Position flexibility options include:
- More part-time or remote work
- Schedule flexibility
2. Business travel flexibility
Before scheduling business trips, companies can benefit from reviewing their current processes and considering switching to virtual meetings or site visits instead. But for companies or industries that cannot do away with business travel, they should think about planning fewer trips and scheduling those trips in advance. Why? Because, unlike their male counterparts, most working mothers cannot simply pack their suitcase and hop on a flight. They require more time to prepare for things like household chores, finding a childcare provider, and, for breastfeeding moms, even logistics for breastmilk! These tasks are too delicate and important to be handled at such short notice. So businesses must consider planning fewer business trips and planning them ahead of time.
3. Childcare support
A lot of families may find suitable childcare hard to find, costly, or both. Which is why there are some working moms who choose to leave their day jobs and focus on being the primary caretakers of their newborn babies or toddlers. Based on the survey, 56%, or more than half of the respondents, believe that their employers can support them better by providing either on-site childcare or childcare cost subsidies. If employers want to retain these employees, they should consider these two options.
4. Maternity and paternity leave options
Childcare or raising a child is the responsibility of BOTH parents. Which is why a quarter of the respondents believe that companies should provide equal maternity and paternity leave options. Companies can support a more harmonious relationship between parents and children and expect better performance when both genders are provided equal options and opportunities. More recently, companies have been improving their leave options by not just providing maternity or paternity leaves but also FMLA leaves, which are not limited to childcare but for family illnesses in general.
5. Support programs for working parents
More than a quarter of the respondents think that employers should offer programs that provide helpful tips to new parents as well as provide quiet areas in the office for working parents. Here are some examples of new parent support programs that companies can get behind:
- Nap rooms for new parents who need to power nap or catch up on sleep after a busy night of childcare.
- Lactation rooms should be a must for every employer. Not only do these provide privacy, but lactation rooms are a more hygienic option than pumping inside the women’s washroom or at your own work desk.
- Parenting coaches or webinars can be a good source of information and encouragement to new mothers and father who are struggling to juggle starting a family and building a career.
6. Off-boarding before and onboarding after maternity leave
Proper alignment is essential for business continuity. You can’t expect an expecting mom’s reliever to already know the ins and outs of work without proper turnover. Likewise, a returning new mom cannot be expected to jump right into work without onboarding.
Coming back to work after a couple of months can be overwhelming, especially when working in a dynamic industry. Line managers should make an effort to welcome the returning employee by conducting proper onboarding and providing relevant updates. While working moms are great negotiators and multi-taskers, it would be unfair to expect them to deliver without the proper tools and information.
7. Internal community for working parents
An employer should also make an effort to connect working parents in their organizations with each other. Parents, especially new parents, can benefit from internal communities like this, where they can exchange ideas and find individuals who have similar experiences. This is also a great way to connect employees in your organization who do not usually interact with each other in an official capacity.
8. Proactive communication
More than a quarter of the respondents believe that they can better express their needs through proactive communication from their manager. There is no one-size-fits-all type of support for all working moms, so being able to openly communicate with their employer will allow them to align expectations and ways to prioritize tasks. Open communication can also uncover unforeseen issues that may arise upon an employee’s return from maternity leave.
That being said, a baby should not be the only excuse for better communication between an immediate manager and an employee. With or without an employee taking maternity leave, it’s important to maintain open communication lines between the line manager and employee.
If you are the mother of a new infant or toddler returning to work, don’t be afraid to ask questions and raise concerns with your employer, either about your work schedule or scope of work. Especially if you’re one of the few working moms in your company, your feedback can help the company create solutions to retain and attract working moms, which can also aid in improving the company’s cultural diversity. And finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone needs some time to get back on track, and communicating your needs is essential to achieve this.
By: Kat Sarmiento