Should Managers Treat Parents & Nonparents the Same?

By Mary Beth Ferrante

Research detailed by The New York Times shows that when employees become parents, women face a significant roadblock at the office known as the "maternal wall." Though they've proven successful before giving birth, women are often required to go above and beyond to demonstrate their worth and competency after maternity leave.  Too many times, women, particularly mothers, share their stories of getting passed up for promotions, pushed into non-client-facing roles and left out of networking opportunities. And on top of that, mothers are often judged by their coworkers for leaving “early” to pick up their children and also judged if they stay late and don’t go home to be with their children. Being a working parent is tough.

But here’s the rub. Colleagues without children also have it tough!

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Managers often expect those people on their teams without children to absorb the "extra" workload. They expect them to work the late hours or attend the last-minute client event and may not recognize that children or not, employees all long for more flexibility and understanding to accomplish their personal goals as well.

To truly create an empathetic and supportive team, managers must find ways that support the entire team regardless of their parental status.

Though people’s reasons for seeking a more flexible schedule may vary, the policies for managing their time should be the same. If you give people time off to take care of a sick child, then you should give people time off to pursue personal endeavors. In order to lessen the burden placed on childless/single individuals, managers should propagate an office culture that considers everyone's need for unconventional hours.  

Those who utilize a holistic approach to managing teams ensure that all employees are offered the same flexibility regardless of the reason. This will not only strengthen your relationship with all of your staff, but it will foster a greater bond between employees and their teams. 

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Here are three ways to start thinking about how you can supervise employees' time in a way that benefits your entire staff.

1. Promote the greater good

Managers set the tone and create the atmosphere for success in the office. Devise a plan to help your teams support one another during important professional and personal moments in their lives. Encourage employees to add personal dates to their team's calendar so everyone will know when he or she will be out and how that could affect their assignments that day. Facilitate a discussion with your team on a regular basis to connect how members are handling their workloads and how things can be shifted in order to support the greater team.

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2. Establish core hours

Provide employees with a company-wide schedule that focuses on core hours when all team members are expected to be online and available. For example, if the majority of your clients engage with staff before noon or meetings typically happen in the morning, explain that everyone must be in the office or available online from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. during that critical time frame. Beyond those core hours, allow individuals to find the best shifts that work for them. Trust your employees and believe them when they say certain hours work better than others.

3. Take the staff's temperature to avoid burnout

Once a quarter, check in with your teams and determine what's working and what isn't. Keep the floor open to suggestions and allow individuals to share feedback and air any grievances. Reevaluate the model and be prepared to make any necessary adjustments.

With effective communication and trust, managers can create an environment that not only strengthens teams but allows all individuals to establish their ideal workday.

Originally published on Fairygodboss.