Author: Chris Martin, CTO, PowWowNow
29 May 2019
New parents can experience huge amounts of pressure when they return to work after taking parental leave. They may need to catch up with missed projects, feel they have to prove themselves against colleagues who haven’t just had a child, and fit their working patterns around such a monumental life change.
What’s more, many parents find it hard to switch off from work and dedicate time to their child during parental leave, or find it difficult to deal with the loss of a routine. These challenges can negatively impact employees’ mental health and make them more likely to seek work outside of their company.
In an age where workers are increasingly concerned about issues such as mental health and equality, it is important that business leaders do all they can to create a supportive environment for new parents. Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which companies can harness technological developments to help employees strike a balance between work and parenting.
Embrace flexible working
Putting flexible working policies in place across the team or organisation, and working with new parents on an individual basis to create flexible working plans, can help employees feel more supported when returning to work. Organisations can also take advantage of new online tools to ensure employees can work from any location and at any time.
Many parents find it hard to switch off from work and dedicate time to their child during parental leave, or find it difficult to deal with the loss of a routine
To do so, companies should provide employees with access to devices that are set up with adequate communication and collaboration tools to help nurture a team environment that encourages members to work away from the office. This means new parents can transition from everyday parenting tasks to work tasks efficiently and easily, and that all workers at a company are aware that the team can be contacted remotely.
Implement shared calendars
Clearly setting out times when individuals are not available to be contacted is another way in which businesses can make new parents feel comfortable and valued in the workplace.
These times need to be communicated to all team members in order for next points of contact to be openly decided upon and implemented effectively. This way, all team members are aware of the status quo and there are contingency plans in place when individuals are absent or away from the office, minimising the chances of any miscommunication or confusion.
Communicating these times and logistics can involve putting a shared calendar in place, so that all employees are aware of one another’s schedules, as well as their commitments outside of the workplace.
Set up regular checkpoints
By setting out pre-agreed checkpoints with new parents and their teams or line managers, companies can help to ensure all employees feel connected and aware of recent or important work developments.
Tools such as Trello or Monday can be used at the start of the working week to manage projects and allocate tasks among team members. By organising the team’s workload in this way, those working remotely can remain up-to-date with all aspects of any projects they’re involved in and manage their schedules accordingly.
Team-based instant messaging apps are also ideal for one-to-one catch-ups or team conversations, enabling workers to preserve consistent lines of communication.
Use sharing tools
Other business communications tools can help employees to better connect with teammates when working away from the office. Web-based file sharing solutions such as Google Drive, Dropbox and WeTransfer allow workers to access and share documents when working remotely, and can help to increase efficiency during collaborative projects.
The many technologies available to businesses mean leaders are able to improve working cultures and move towards a more inclusive workplace
Web conferencing platforms that provide screen-sharing solutions, meanwhile, allow all participants in a conference call to view and share materials, giving everyone involved a more accurate understanding of the discussions taking place.
Make the most of your meetings
Simply discussing a piece of work over the phone is often not enough, especially if other members of the team are set to be involved and the conversation could benefit from the pooling of ideas. Setting up a conference call in which all members of the team can contribute, even those working away from the office for childcare reasons, allows participants to share and view materials. Webcasting tools such as Webinar are perfect for creating channels of communication between large, disparately located groups.
The many technologies available to businesses mean leaders are able to improve working cultures and move towards a more inclusive workplace. If these are taken advantage of effectively, companies can ensure new parents do not find it difficult to balance their family lives with career commitments.
Most importantly, parents will be able to return to work feeling confident that they will be well supported and will continue to enjoy a better work-life balance moving forward.