The notion of a 40-hour workweek has become antiquated. According to a poll from Gallup, “Adults employed full-time in the U.S. report working an average of 47 hours per week, almost a full workday longer than what a standard five-day, 9-to-5 schedule entails.”
This can be especially difficult for working parents trying to balance their work-home life and trying to raise children. So what is HR’s role in helping them find balance?
Maternity and Paternity Leave
When it comes to the policies your company implements and enforces, it ultimately falls into HR’s hands. Whether you have a formal HR department or just a small team of individuals who oversee this area of operations, it’s their responsibility to ensure your employees have a healthy work-life balance. Two specific policies that should be a major priority are maternity and paternity leave.
The period after the birth of an employee’s child is a critical one. It can be incredibly demanding and stressful on new parents. It’s a time when the mother needs to effectively recover and recuperate from delivery and is a critical time for forming a strong parent-child bond. Therefore, employers should make maternity and paternity leave top priority.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 was specifically geared “to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families.” A big part of HR’s responsibility is to ensure that working parents are given adequate time to attend to the needs of a pregnant woman, newborn child or for the adoption and foster care of a child.
Other Ways to Improve Work-Life Balance
There are several other steps your HR can take to ensure working parents achieve a nice balance. Here are some ideas:
- Enforce vacation time – Not all employees utilize their vacation days. In fact, The LA times reports, “Americans left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012.” This can lead to fatigue and burnout and be toxic to the well-being of families.
- Offer telecommuting options – Working from home, even part of the time, can be tremendously helpful to working parents.
- Offer flexible scheduling – An example would be having the option to work four longer days and have a three-day weekend rather than the traditional five-day workweek.
- Provide childcare benefits – This includes offering free on-site childcare or discounts to local childcare providers.
Benefits for Employers
Helping working parents achieve a healthy work-life balance doesn’t just benefit your employees. It can have some tremendous advantages for your company as a whole. It’s known to reduce employee turnover, raise morale and increase overall productivity. Helping working parents find a balance can also help enhance your reputation within your industry and be a catalyst for attracting high-level talent.
A significant percentage of the labor force has children under the age of 18 (70.5 percent in 2016). As an employer, it’s important to help working parents achieve a healthy work-life balance so they can devote adequate time to raising families. By understanding HR’s role in this process, you can establish the necessary framework to make this a reality, which should lead to benefits across the board.