Introducing a family friendly approach
Well, the starting point is to understand why your employers want to be seen as family-friendly. The reasons are pretty simple and purely commercial. Employers have finally figured out that in these days of more flexible working you don’t have to do too much to get more out of your working parents. Be a bit “nicer” to any mothers or fathers in the business who happen to have children and you’ll end up with happier and harder working employees.
Facilitate flexible working by making sure that anyone who might need a work phone has one and knows how to use Facetime or Skype to encourage remote meetings. Flexible working isn’t about work patterns; does the job really need someone full time? Break down a role to 30 hours a week on flexible working and it could suffice.
There are, of course, loads of practical ways that employers can help working parents. The most stressful time for families is when childcare breaks down. There are some fantastic emergency childcare schemes out. We find most forward thinking directors and managers are happy for the business to pick up the cost if there is an important work deadline that gets hit as a result.
What does this mean for you, the employer?
Set out below are three examples of what family-friendly might mean for different employers:
Example 1: City law firm. Senior lawyers are paid very well, they work incredibly hard and client needs will always come top of the priority list. Family-friendly here might mean making sure the working parent has fantastic childcare support so that they really can attend that completion meeting at 2 in the morning… Not that friendly you might think, but definitely useful.
Example 2: Large performance driven multinational. Imagine you’re an ambitious and well-regarded young parent. Family-friendly here might simply be a case of recognising that for a few years you prefer getting your head down and not constantly fighting for promotion. The employer that can allow people to take a rest from the daily competition for promotion and jump back on the career ladder a few years later is brilliant for working parents.
Example 3: Call centre. Here family-friendly might simply be a case of making sure your shift pattern is flexed around the needs of the working community rather than set in stone irrespective of family commitments.
So, put like that, flexible working is about looking at what’s best for the employee, and the employer, and finding the angle that benefits the business (more work, higher engagement, better results).
Building a family friendly culture
When it comes to family-friendly culture is fundamental and there are a few ways to start shifting the needle. Organise a lunchtime seminar from a work-life balance expert, organise some sandwiches and convince some senior (preferably male) employees to attend and talk about the issues raised afterwards. Make sure there is a proper process in place to keep in touch with anyone who happens to be on maternity leave. And if you really want to be forward thinking, ask who in the business combines their job with responsibility for an older relative. You’ll be amazed how much they appreciate just being able to talk about the issues.