In a recent study, Washington University sociologist Caitlyn Collins spent 5 years interviewing women in Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the United States. Her findings indicate that women in the U.S., especially, are drowning in stress.
In her book, Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving, Collins explores how governments and policies differ with regards to parent work-life balance, and how we can learn from one another. It’s no secret that the U.S. is far behind other countries in its foundational support of parental policies. However, when looking at the results of Collins’ study, it’s alarming that there is such a discrepancy on the amount of “mom guilt” that American mothers face compared to Italian, Swedish, and German mothers.
As an American working mom, this study hits home. Since my husband and I decided to start a family, we have struggled to strike the right balance between what is best for our family’s needs (such as doctor appointments, good health insurance, parental leave policy, etc.) and the needs of our respective careers. Because of this, I sought out a company that could provide me with the benefits, flexible work schedule, and support that I believed my husband and I would need to confidently start a family. Fast-forward 2.5 years and I am thrilled to say that I found an employer that is great at supporting this balance.
I am certainly not saying that I am without “mom guilt.” I think this is something that all mothers face every time we leave our children with a babysitter or choose to travel out of town for work. However, I am saying that this stress is partially alleviated when I know my employer has my back.
Because our company leaders have built a parent-friendly culture, I feel confident that I can go to my direct manager and tell him that I cannot attend a conference 2 hours away at 7:30 a.m. because it would put too much stress on our new babysitter and my husband. This real-life scenario demonstrates a parent-friendly company culture in action, where open and honest discussions about work-life balance can be aired.
How is it that InfoTrust has built a family-friendly work environment? Here are five key areas I believe improve employee experience, specifically for parents.
1. Flexible Work Schedule
Life happens. More importantly, it doesn’t only happen after 5 p.m. or on the weekends. The responsibility of the employer–and the good manager–is to trust employees to accomplish their necessary tasks and understand that sometimes they need to miss half of a workday because of parent-teacher conferences.
2. Respectful Meeting Times
In a parent-friendly work environment, simply not scheduling important meetings or events during “peak parenting times” can go a long way. This means avoiding 8 a.m. meetings, as parents may have school drop-off at that time. Another example is considering when most school spring breaks occur in your area before scheduling an all-company event during that period. Simply put, have awareness and be respectful of a parent’s likely-busy schedule when considering meeting times.
3. Healthy and Productive One-on-Ones
Recall the example I gave earlier about asking my manager, Alex, about not attending the conference? This real-life conversation occurred during our weekly one-on-one meeting. At InfoTrust, our one-on-one meetings address three very important questions:
- What are you working on?
- What are you stuck on?
- What can I (the manager) do to support you (the employee)?
Because of these open meetings, I felt comfortable discussing my hesitation in attending the conference. The one-on-one is also a place to seek constant feedback and discuss my career goals. (There is an entirely separate conversation about how these regular check-ins help with equal opportunities for women, but let’s just say for now that one-on-ones are crucial!)
4. Technology to Increase Efficiency
It seems like a new “time-saving” application is being developed every day. In a work environment that loves tech and thrives on new ideas, we are constantly finding ways to be more efficient. InfoTrust leverages technology to automate or improve processes; in doing so, we save time and energy that can be spent more wisely on growing the organization or, more importantly, catching our kids’ basketball games.
5. Great Benefits
As Collins outlined in her book, the U.S. is far behind other countries when it comes to federal guidelines around parental leave and paid time off (PTO). That’s why it’s even more extraordinary that my employer provides the benefits that they do. At InfoTrust, employees enjoy unlimited PTO, employer-paid health insurance (a good plan too), a 401(k) with match, a bonus program based on profit sharing and personal goals, free lunch everyday, gym membership reimbursement, tuition reimbursement, and more. Having these benefits greatly reduces my daily stress and mom-guilt.
Expecting a Better Employee Experience
Much can be gleaned from Collins’ book regarding the foundational and cultural changes needed to promote a better parent-friendly work-life. She points out that Americans often view stress as an individual concern best addressed by individual strategies (“If I just wake up earlier” or “I just need to find a job that works less hours”). Instead, I believe it’s time to call for better expectations from employees and employers. Expect more flexibility, support, and balance. Expect a better employee experience that supports all cycles of life.
Are you an employer that would like to learn more from our co-founder and CEO, Alex, about building a parent-friendly work culture? View this article now: “A Checklist: How to Support Working Parents.”