Best ways to support working parents
Being a parent can be extremely rewarding – but it isn’t always easy. School holidays, such as the half term in February, can cause additional pressures on your time, your sleep, your finances, and your levels of stress – and all these factors can result in poorer mental wellbeing.
We have partnered with digital wellbeing provider Kooth, to find out what challenges working parents are facing today, and offer some tips and advice to help make the workplace more inclusive for those with children.
Parent employees make up 43% of the UK’s workforce, which is around 13 million people. We know that working parents have several demands on their time; pressures from both work and home life. It’s critical we make organisational changes and decisions that offer parent employees the support, flexibility, and information they need to sustain a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout.
According to Kooth’s research, one in three employees feel their workplace doesn’t support their needs, and over half agree that their workplace could do more. Mike Brazier, head of employer mental wellbeing, says working parents are especially vulnerable to accumulating stress both at home and in the workplace. “Prioritising their mental health and wellbeing is critical to increasing workforce productivity, retention, and overall workplace satisfaction and functioning,” he explains. “Data shows that a quarter of the workforce have taken time off in the past year due to their mental health, and that a quarter would consider changing jobs to a company with better mental health support.”
A working parent shares their experience:
“The main challenge of parenting is the mental load – there’s just so much to do and think about all the time. Your own free time evaporates and you can often feel trapped in a permanent cycle of schedules, competing needs, and pressure to provide and succeed. It’s very easy to burn out; you just get used to a pretty permanent sense of anxiety – there’s always something you’re not doing as well as you could.”
How can employers best support their parent workforces?
When thinking about the best support options for your parent workforce, here are three insights from the perspective of three different workplace wellbeing professionals.
Consider a holistic approach to support
Thinking about how your organisation can extend physical and mental health support options to the families of your employees lends a more holistic approach to support. Clinical psychologist, Hannah Wilson, says that from an employee productivity perspective, a holistic, whole-family approach is always considered better. “If a young person is more supported and there’s less stress on the employee, they can be more present at work, won’t need as much time off, and will be able to be more focused,” she says.
Train the wider workforce for a greater work culture impact
While it’s essential to train managers and key members of staff on how to support employees, providing mental health education and training for the wider workforce can help reduce stigma and create a wider awareness. Charlotte Turnbull, Head of Employment at W Legal, says employers and wellbeing leads need to think beyond training a few selected staff members as mental health first aiders. “They should also work to educate staff at a wider workforce level,” she says. “The more people trained around active listening, how to spot early signs of mental health problems, and how to signpost colleagues to available support, the greater the impact.”
Empower employees to look after their mental health
It’s important to provide a balance of prevention, early intervention, and reactive support options that are accessible at all times. Kooth’s workplace wellbeing lead, Angela Kravets, says it’s important to consider all aspects of your employees’ lives.
“Mental health isn’t just nine-to-five, so encouraging employees to understand their own mental health can help them manage both in work settings and in their personal lives,” she says. “Companies can have tools where people can assess and analyse their mental health, learn to be aware of their triggers, what can relieve their triggers, and what can affect and impact their mental wellbeing.”
You can read the full guide on how employers can support working parents here.
Check out these resources for more tips and advice on supporting working parents in your organisation.
Are you interested in learning more about supporting working parents? Head of People UK, Holly Smith, has six suggestions on how your organisation can stay ahead of the curve in addressing your parent workforce’s wellbeing needs when children are off school. Read more here.
Resources in this toolkit:
People who care for both their elderly or disabled parents and their children are called 'sandwich carers'. This article explores the pressures faced by these workers, and offers some tips on coping in these difficult circumstances.
Supporting working parents and carers
While everybody can have challenges in their lives, parents often face additional responsibilities and difficulties that can make their working lives harder. This web page suggests ways employers and managers can help parents in their organisation.
Kooth for children and young people
Kooth's service for children and young people is designed to provide support and advice to anyone under the age of 18 who might need help, so you might like to share it with parents in your organisation. It's full of age-appropriate actives and tips.
Sleep and mental health
Parents can often struggle to get enough sleep. This one-page PDF fact sheet from Unilever highlights some of the reasons why poor mental health and sleep deprivation are linked, and offers techniques for improving the amount and quality of your sleep.
Flexible working practices
‘Flexible working’ describes a type of working arrangement which gives a degree of flexibility on how long, where, when and at what times employees work, and it can be especially beneficial for working parents. This guide from the CIPD can help you implement flexible working in your organisation.
Free helpline for parents and carers
Understanding your rights as a parent can help you to feel less stressed about the way you are treated at work. Working Families is a charity that can help you to gets to grips with employment rights and in-work benefits.
Many working parents can find themselves becoming 'sandwich carers' - that is, looking after both children and elderly relatives. This guide can help you talk to employees who are experiencing caring for an older or unwell loved one, and can help you build a culture supportive of their needs.
The PDF explains the differences between perinatal mental health problems, the impact they might have on new parents, and ways your organisation can support those experiencing them.