Updated: Mar 16
It’s official. Companies the world over have dropped the ‘return to the office’ card and employees are getting themselves ready to the day. As the world reopens following the two-year hiatus, this return to “normalcy” will certainly be an adjustment for everyone, especially parents who have grown to love the extra family time. But alas, we press on.
In my last blog post I spoke about the anxieties parents may be facing with the mass return to the office and provided tips on how they can prepare for the transition. But as the employees prepare, I believe it is fitting for employers to do so as well. As I reflect on the last article, I realized that outside of mandating workers back to the office, companies still have a role to play in ensuring the wellbeing of its employees.
Today, I want to talk about how companies can help employees (especially parents) with the return to office. A lot has happened recently that have reshaped the individuals walking through the building doors. They have lost loved ones (some several), lost the stability of their homes, developed new fears and phobias and the list goes on and on.
Whatever the reason, the point is that the persons returning to the office are not the same who would have exited the building in 2019.
What this means
Companies will therefore need to be cognizant of this fact to create a safe/fitting work environment for its staff members. After two years of isolation, fear and uncertainty, returning to a pre-pandemic “normal” will be next to impossible. Things may never be the same after these past 20 months. And because of this, the transition from work from home may be challenging.
It will certainly take some amount of mind reconditioning to get used to. This transition may be even more difficult for the parents among the lot, as they navigate the differing responsibilities that this change would reintroduce to their routine — pick up and drop-off, commuting in traffic with a child, implications of commuting on family life — and the list goes on.
Here are five ways companies can assist parents in the post-pandemic era:
It is unfair to expect employees to seamlessly fall back into the previous routine without thought of all that has happened. Clearly outline expectations at the outset and be open enough to negotiate terms with team members.
Encourage people managers to be compassionate
A lot has happened in the years to affect the psyche of your team. Encourage people managers to be compassionate when interacting with staff and understand that for the most part, people are doing their best to come to terms with the “new normal”. Not having an insensitive, workaholic leader will go a far way in helping people find their footing and ease back into the way of things.
Have open dialogue with staff
The employer/employee relationship should be one of mutual benefit. Gone are the days when companies could lord power over the employer with stipulations and rules without room for discourse and open conversation. During this period it is important that companies and their leaders are open to suggestions from the team on how the entity can help.
Making an effort to implement some suggestions can also go a long way in improving staff morale and productivity. This shows that you listen to the team and are respectful of the employer/employee relationship.
Create a community for parents and other like minded employees
It is easy to feel alone when you’re struggling through something. Having a community to use as a sounding board can help people register that there are others like them, who can help them navigate the challenge. This augurs well for the team’s mental wellness and inevitably productivity.
Examine your employees’ journey with parents in mind to identify gaps
Envision the average day of a working parent and look into the policies and processes that you have on file which may not serve them based on their needs. When you identify the gaps, try to implement short-term and long-term solutions that can ensure that your team feels comfortable with your company.
For example, consider extending aftercare services to parents who have to pick-up their child during the course of the workday, or brokering partnerships with such institutions to host children of team members. A little goes a long way in supporting parents.
As we navigate the uncertain, employees getting support from a company can alleviate some of the stress employees may be facing. Developing a compassionate response to employees following a grueling pandemic can make a tremendous difference in the company’s outlook and inevitably influence productivity and the bottom line.