How can we create a working environment that supports the diverse needs of working parents?

This year it was really interesting to see that there is now a day highlighted that encourages understanding and awareness of mental health in parents (27th Jan).  In my opinion, being a parent is one of the toughest jobs in the world!  It is another full-time job on top of any paid work you might also be doing, and unlike other jobs there are no SOP’s (standard operating procedures) or manuals to tell you how to do it….  That’s why for most of the last 16.5 years of my career whilst being a working parent I have felt a bit like one of those bendy people, being pulled in many different directions at once.

According to Forbes in a an article titled Working Parents are in Crisis, new data from multiple sources demonstrates working parents are concerned about their children, struggling with work-life balance and taking steps back in their careers. They are also especially stressed about global and national issues.  There are plenty of those to occupy our minds currently!  All of this takes a toll on parents’ mental health.

Bearing in mind that 89.1% of families with children have one working parent, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics in the US, (we can assume the UK has similar statistics) which means this affects the majority of our working population.  Therefore, we can’t afford to ignore the impact poor parental mental health can have on our communities and our wider economy.

Starting a family is a huge milestone in many people’s lives and the very process to do so can cause stress and subsequent mental ill health.  There are many ways to become a parent; natural conception between a man and women, assisted through fertility treatment or IVF, adoption or surrogacy, all of which can be a process with a mix of emotions; anticipation, disappointment, grief, joy and happiness.  There can be a lot of uncertainty,  and we know that humans do not like uncertainty!  This can cause worry and anxiety which left unchecked can lead to mental ill health and illnesses such as depression.

When parents are supported at work, its better for them, their families and the organisation.

So how can we create a working environment that supports the diverse needs of working parents?

  1. Provide Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements can help parents balance their work and family responsibilities, which can reduce stress and promote mental health. This may include offering flexible schedules, telecommuting, or job sharing.

  1. Offer Mental Health Benefits

Employers can offer mental health benefits, such as counseling services or employee assistance programs (EAPs). These benefits can provide employees with access to professional support and resources for managing mental health challenges.

  1. Create a Supportive Workplace Culture

Creating a supportive workplace culture can promote employee well-being and reduce stigma surrounding mental health challenges. Employers can promote mental health awareness and offer training for managers to better support employees who may be experiencing mental health challenges.

  1. Provide Paid Parental Leave and support through the transition

Paid parental leave can provide parents with the time and resources they need to adjust to parenthood and bond with their children. This can promote mental health and improve child outcomes.  Giving parents support both whilst preparing to leave the workplace, during and when preparing to return can reduce stress and anxiety around the transition.

  1. Offer Childcare Assistance

Childcare assistance, such as subsidies or onsite childcare, can reduce the financial and logistical challenges of parenting. This can reduce stress and promote parental mental health.

But what can parents themselves do to ease the pressure?

  1. Self Care

It’s that age old saying about putting your oxygen mask on first.  As a parent being pulled in multiple directions, it is really important to look after yourself so you are able to cope with those challenges.  There are many self care strategies out there but a foundation of good sleep, health and exercise is a great place to start.

  1. Creating boundaries

With the move to hybrid working for many industries it makes the boundary between home and work blurred.  So developing healthy boundaries where you switch off from work at the end of the day can help focus on home time.  Many people look to creating a physical boundary like taking a walk, changing clothes or physically closing down and packing away a laptop to signify the end of their day.

  1. Create a Support System

There are times when inevitably plans are disrupted by illness, traffic, strikes meaning parents either can’t get to work or are having to juggle home schooling again whilst working.  Therefore having a strong support system around parents can help alleviate the pressure.  Planning out who you can call in times of need in advance takes away stress in the moment.  Draw out a support map with contact details so it is on hand when you need it.

In conclusion, supporting parental mental health in the workplace is crucial for both parents and employers. Employers can support parental mental health by providing flexible work arrangements, mental health benefits, creating a supportive workplace culture, providing paid parental leave, and offering childcare assistance. By promoting parental mental health in the workplace, employers can create a more positive and productive workplace environment while supporting the well-being of their employees and their families and parents themselves can put things in place to help for those moments in need.  

If you want to find out how your organisation can support parents through their parental transition or how you can create a supportive workplace culture click here to contact us


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