Parents in the workplace

August 18 2021

Many workers are going to become parents, either producing their own children or by adopting. It’s a life-changing experience that can put a strain on health and may have a detrimental effect on the ability of an employee to do their job if they are not supported.

There is nothing that adequately prepares you for being a parent and it’s important for employees and employers to understand the challenges faced by working parents. 

For employees

  • A shock to the system – Having one, or more, people permanently added to your life is a major change to your circumstances. It’s going to take time to adapt and it will be difficult to accommodate a working life with the increasing demands at home.
  • Sleep deprivation – Regular loss of sleep can have a serious impact on health and wellbeing and holding down a job during this difficult time can see a decrease in productivity at work and a greater risk of mistakes.
  • Financial problems – More people at home means more money needing to be spent and children are very expensive! This can put a serious strain on your household budget – particularly if you were a two-salary couple now reduced to one or one working part-time.
  • Job security – If you are finding things difficult and it’s affecting how you do your job, you may have worries about job security and fears that you may lose your job. Another common anxiety in new parents. 
  • Health and wellbeing – The changes to lifestyle may result in a decline in mental health, stress, anxiety, depression, postnatal depression and even burnout if you are still working. 

It may all seem very negative and it’s important to stress that having children is an extremely rewarding experience – something which will truly make a family complete. But it’s important to tell you about some of the common issues that can affect new parents and that you can do something about it, you are not alone and it’s something that all parents go through to greater or lesser degrees.

If you have concerns, talk to your employer. The working culture is very different these days and the majority are willing to explore the possibility of reducing workload or hours, remote working or changing the way you work. There is also statutory maternity and paternity leave available to you and most firms will have an occupational health structure in place to help and support you.

For employers

  • It’s in your best interests – Taking care of staff means taking care of your business. A happy healthy workforce is going to be more productive.
  • Maintain a dialogue – Many employees are either embarrassed or scared to admit they have a problem, fearing it will affect their job prospects. Regular meetings are essential for understanding ongoing needs and will help to highlight any concerns.
  • Support and guidance – Talk through the options available to your employee. Make sure they understand maternity and paternity leave, talk about how you can help your valued staff member back to work and ensure they have access to your occupational health team who always stand ready to give support.
  • Other ways to help – Consider flexible working options, regular breaks and adapting working practices. There are a range of measures you can put in place to keep the wheels turning productively.

Creating a culture of a better work/life balance will help you look after the health and welfare of your workforce and retain the services of a highly valued member of staff. Our lives are constantly changing but seeking the support of occupational health experts can ensure the needs of employers and employees can always be met as a top priority.

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