Ways of working

How to support new parents returning to work

Working parents make up a larger proportion of the global workforce than ever before. An OECD report shows that maternal employment rates have risen by over 2% in the last decade alone. In Sweden and Denmark, more than 80% of women with a child under 14 years old are employed. This trend is repeated worldwide, with more than 70% of Israeli and Russian mothers comprising the workforce.

That said, it’s not always easy for parents to return to work after they’ve had a child. According to Pew research, around 56% of American women find it difficult to achieve a balance between work and childcare. No wonder that far fewer mothers of young children or multiple children have jobs than those with teenagers or an only child. In France, Germany and Slovakia, women with three children under 14 are 25% less likely to be employed than those with one or two children under 14.

So why is this a problem for companies? If new parents feel unable to return to work, businesses are missing out on the valuable skills these employees have gained from their personal and professional experiences. A Regus survey shows that 72% of companies believe that employers who don’t take on returning parents miss out on important skills and knowledge.

Here are a few ways your company can adapt to work better for young and busy parents.

Flexible working hours

For companies dealing with clients across time zones, working on a set schedule is no longer necessary or even beneficial. Setting core hours, such as 10 am to 4 pm, and allowing your employees to choose how to structure their time outside this block, will not only make them happier but can also drive efficiency. For example, by enabling parents to start and finish work an hour earlier, they can match their day to fit in school pickups or shift hours to make appointments. This also brings people into the office earlier or later than usual, making cross-time-zone communication much easier and more direct.

Needs-centered workspaces

With the average Briton spending 55 minutes on their commute – and the average worker in Bangkok taking around two hours – the journey to work can take its toll, both on an employee’s free time and their job satisfaction.

If you’ve hired a returning parent, they might not want to work from home, but they could be just as put off by an hour-long commute each way that cuts into their family time. Using co-working or flexible working spaces can give your employees a space away from the distractions of home, without having to fight the morning rush hour to reach your main office. This also works well if you have parents working part-time, as you can reduce the number of unoccupied desk spaces in your office.

Employee benefit packages

Fast-growth companies aren’t often in the position of larger corporations, which can provide on-site facilities such as daycare. Still, the needs of new parents can still be built into a business’ benefits package. This could simply take the form of daycare contributions, or it could work with childcare vouchers or even travel assistance to make commutes smoother.