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RfH Working Session Recap: How Companies Can Support Working Parents

September 17, 2020
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The lines between work and home life are blurred more than ever, especially for working parents. These last few months, working parents report feeling more stressed, tired, and rushed than their colleagues, thanks to the demands of working, parenting, and home-schooling all in the same space and even at the same time. So how can companies and their HR teams help lighten the load?

Resources for Humans (RfH) is a Slack community of over 9,000 HR leaders. RfH recently hosted a virtual working session for members to share their tips for supporting employees juggling parenthood and work. Here are some of the key takeaways shared.

Flexible Scheduling

One of the main suggestions in the working session from multiple members was to make flexible scheduling a norm. This could entail color-coding work calendars, encouraging people to update their Slack status to avoid interruptions, or letting people create new schedules to accommodate caregiving responsibilities. No matter what strategy you go with, giving flexibility shows that you trust employees to get their work done on their own time.

“There's no quick solution that works for everybody — especially given that infants and caring for them is totally different than a five-year-old and caring for them. Every age is totally different, and at the end of the day, a lot of what employees need is flexibility and resources.”
- Adrienne Barnard, SVP, People Operations & Experience at AdmitHub

“What I've been doing with our managers is giving them sort of a framework of working with each employee on a schedule and blocking their calendar. If it's a block that's green, it means that they're free, they're totally available. If it's yellow, it means they can join. Their kid might be on their lap or running around in the background, but that's fine. And then if it's red, it's totally like they are the primary caregiver at that time and they cannot take any calls.” -
- Sally Dankas,
Senior HRBP at General Assembly

Leading by Example

Communicate early, often, and from the top down — that was a recurring point of emphasis among workshop attendees. Make sure your leadership team understands the how and why of supporting caregivers during COVID-19 and beyond. Having leadership and managers reaffirm messaging lets employees know they have the support that they need.

“One of our partners made an extremely effective Loom video. It was three minutes long and he said, ‘Look, I don't have kids. I'm a bachelor. I don't know what to tell you, folks, but I trust that you're all going to make the right decisions, do what you need to do, and just get the work done, and if you can't get the work done, you need to reach out to Ellie or some of the other leaders and they'll work with you on it.’ You could feel a collective sigh from everyone in the company because he ‘got it,’ and it was extremely important.”
- Ellie McLaughlin, Director of People Operations at Aprio Cloud

“The first step for us was talking with our leadership team about expectations that they can be setting for parents by just starting those conversations...Because it seemed to me that one of the places we were lacking was jumping into those conversations and being able to have transparent and empathetic relationships with people's direct reports.”
- Marion Talmo, Head of Operations at LumenAd

“Everybody's just super busy and overwhelmed that they might miss the resources that they have available. So, in that one-on-one setting, it's just another opportunity for a manager to say, ‘Hey, I know that you have kids and I think you'd like this. I just wanted to tell you about it.’”
- Cindy Cunha, Director of Talent and Culture at Brainshark

Support and Resources

Feeling overwhelmed by work, caregiving, and homeschooling, it can be hard for parents to remember all the resources available to them. Remind them of anything you might have available, like EAPs or remote work stipends that could be applied to childcare. Take this time to be inclusive and remind non-parents in your company that the resources are available to them if and when they need it.

“I've had a couple [vendors] that I've researched. I spoke to a woman from Helper — it's an online platform for backup care, tutoring, dependent care, spending account administration, and some educational tutoring resources. I've also heard of an organization called Kunik. They do caregiver resources,”
- Grace Tkach, Director, HRBP at Pear Therapeutics

“We've identified areas where maybe we're not spending money anymore [due to remote work], and we can put it towards a new perk. One of those is our commuter benefit. We actually just provide a monthly amount to our team members to use and they're not going anywhere. We're trying to figure out, ‘Can we stop that benefit and put that money towards a different perk?’”
- Christine Simontacchi, People Partner at Pie Insurance

“When you can't provide a resource of money, provide a resource of information and make it easy so that [employees] don't have to spend all of their time searching for things that are really important. They will always be a parent first before being an employee.”
- Laylee Asgari, Workplace Operations Manager at Guild Education

“I've created a mental well-being hub of resources in different topics that employees can refer to...Even just providing the information so it's upfront and easy for them to access can help. [That's] just another thing that they don't have to do.”
- Tessa Dent, People Coordinator at Auvik Networks Inc.

Fostering Community

Though working parents make up a sizable chunk of the workforce, shouldering so much can often feel isolating for employees. Some community members shared ideas for bringing working parents together, like creating safe spaces on Slack, providing virtual babysitting to keep younger kids entertained while parents work, and even HR-facilitated buddy systems.

“In the parents’ Slack channel, we're going to be sharing resources and have employees volunteer if they want to be paired with another parent to talk through something. For example, if a parent has a child with special needs and another parent is just starting to go through that process, they could be paired together to talk through that. We also have a shared drive that we're going to put resources for parents on. An example of that is a list of questions to ask when you're looking at a new daycare or evaluating a nanny.”
- Shannon Rafferty, Talent Management Specialist at Politico

“We would do an hour-long Zoom meeting — it would be me and whoever wanted to bring their kids, and I would give the parents a schedule. I’d say, ‘I'll be here at 2:00 PM with Legos on Monday. Tuesday, you're going to need crayons and these are the coloring pages that you can print out. Wednesday, we're going to paint rainbows on our windows.’ It was just an opportunity to give parents a break...Just go sit down and drink your coffee or take a hot bath. You have an hour and I've got your kids.”
- Ashley Bommarito, HR Administrator at Offensive Security

“We're also organizing like a weekly kid stand up meeting. So, kids can remotely talk about what they're working on with other kids in the firm. We kind of were doing family-style events beforehand, so this is a nice continuation of that.”
- Ellen Gladish, Workplace Operations Manager at Aquatic Capital


Those are just some of the insights shared during a recent Resources for Humans virtual working session. If you haven’t already, join the over 9,000 HR leaders that make up our Slack community.