Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - Six Ways Project Managers Can Implement Support for Working Parents

Six Ways Project Managers Can Implement Support for Working Parents

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting everyone in a significant way. One of the groups who are experiencing some unique challenges are working parents. According to Catalyst, 41 percent of parents say they have less job security due to the pandemic and fear they will be penalized due to childcare responsibilities.

Parents have to juggle workplace demands, fluctuating school schedules, and even being caregivers to adult loved ones. A lot is happening, and it has caused many parents to become overwhelmed. This growing problem is one that companies—and project managers alike—can address by installing policies to help working parents stay afloat

In Catalysts' recent study of working parents' needs, they found that many parents (mothers, 49 percent and fathers, 39 percent) were unaware of the plans their employers have in place to support them.

When parents can meet their work goals and support their children and loved ones, it creates a better environment for them to thrive. However, many are finding that they have to sacrifice their family needs to meet work obligations. So, how can you, as a project manager, better support working parents?

Check out our tips below:

Normalize Flexibility

For many parents, letting the team know that something is going on at home can be fear-inducing. Many parents will hide home-related issues regarding their children for fear that they will be seen as uncommitted to their jobs. You can support parents by breaking this stigma. As a project manager, you can normalize the need for flexibility to support family needs.

For example, during the Monday morning chat, discuss the time you spent with your family, and even offer a few details—as you feel comfortable—about how your home responsibilities fit into your life. Doing this will make parents think that it is safe to speak with you and the team about their challenges.

Install Flexible Work Schedule Policies

Considering what has happened in 2020, it is crucial that you allow for flexible work policies with your staff. Now, you should always have rules and structure. However, you want to build a flexible work structure with opportunities to let working parents handle their ever-changing family situations.

For example, you may discover that your teams don't need to start right at the same time each day. You may want to allow your teams to begin work when they feel the most comfortable and monitor their progress by setting deadlines and weekly catch-up meetings. Additionally, this may include establishing work-from-home policies like allowing team members to work remotely indefinitely or on certain days. Ultimately, you want to develop flexible work policies that highlight your expectations as this can benefit yourself and your teams.

Get Creative with Workloads

According to recent data, one in four parents has considered giving up their work or reducing hours. A great way to help working parents handle scheduling issues is to be creative with things like workload management or flexible work arrangements.

For example, you could start a process like job sharing, where colleagues take on part-time roles to handle the tasks one full-time person would do. You can also allow employees to work on an as-needed basis in a freelance or contractor role. It all depends on how creative you want to get and what employees are comfortable with.

Open the Lines of Communication and Ask Questions

One of the best ways that you can determine how to help employees is to simply ask them. You can guess what their needs are, but nothing replaces asking them about what they need from you. This action can be done one-on-one, through small group discussions, or by conducting surveys. The goal here is to see where you can support your working parents in the most effective way possible.

A simple ask also acknowledges that every parent's needs are unique. One parent may benefit from a "choose your own hours" situation, while another may need or want the structure of a nine-to-five work schedule. Asking pointed questions about their needs gives you a starting point to create a road map to success for your team members who are working parents.

Look At Examples

There's nothing wrong with getting some insight from other companies who are in a similar position. Again, many companies are in the same boat when it comes to supporting working parents and caregivers. You may find that your competitor or even a company in another industry has found a way to assist these individuals that you may have never thought of. So, be on the lookout for ideas from other companies. Keep an eye on their social media feeds and news outlets that cover your industry.

If they are setting an example, it's highly likely that someone is talking about it. Also, don't be afraid to reach out to thought leaders and changemakers that specialize in flexible work arrangements. These individuals may have ideas that can help and may even be available to act as consultants. In short, don't hesitate to look at those around you to see where you can get some ideas.

Monitor Progress and Assess What Does and Doesn't Work

Again, this isn't a one-time process. Any change requires a "continuous improvement" approach and an openness to switch-up and get rid of what isn't working. Much like any other policy you implement, you want to ensure that you know the metrics and are seeking feedback. So, you should make a point to enact SMART goals for these initiatives. For example, you may want to tie things like turnover, employee satisfaction, and productivity to these changes. Doing so will allow you to get a quantitative measure of your efforts.

Additionally, qualitative feedback is also useful. You want to hear from your employees about how these initiatives are working out and if they are beneficial. Both categories of metrics and measurements will allow you to see if your strategies help working parents and enable you to build out ways to support them further.

Working Parents Are in a Unique Position and Require Specialized Support

Everyone is dealing with a tense new normal due to the pandemic and other world events. Many of these happenings are creeping into the everyday lives of your employees—including parents. As a result, many need your help navigating this time while also maintaining their work performance.

Companies and project managers are in a unique position to establish policies that support their working parents. Doing so can have positive impacts on everything from your company's bottom-line to employee morale. The more you help and support your teams, the easier it will be for them to do the work you hired them to do.


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