Mother’s Day is just around the corner. It’s no secret many working mothers struggle to balance their professional and parental responsibilities. HR professionals can’t ignore the unique challenges they face. It’s important they look for opportunities to provide additional support whenever possible. But since most companies already offer maternity leave or flexible work schedules, the question becomes, what’s the next step?
We asked experts what organizations can – and should – do to make working moms’ lives easier. In honor of Mother’s Day, we compiled a list of ways organizations can improve the workplace for mothers every day. Here are the excellent suggestions they gave us:
1. Let go of assumptions
Don’t offer promotions and assignments based on whether you think [working mothers] can or ‘can’t’ because of family obligations. You should never create a narrative for your workforce based on your own preferences and assumptions. Evaluate working mothers’ performance without considering their constraints as you perceive them.
Take people at face value. Don’t assume you know where they’re at just because you might have known someone in their situation or you maybe once breezed by a similar place. Let them tell you who they are and what they can do.
Eileen Scully, founder of The Rising Tides
2. Set expectations early
Even the most organized moms sometimes deal with life imploding. Many people will only address these situations when they happen versus having a larger discussion with their manager to understand what to do in these situations. For example, schools ask for volunteer time or parent attendance at special events and it can be challenging to know where the balance is, especially if you’re already given flex work hours.
Having proactive discussions to understand expectations can save everyone angst and concern. If an employee needs to miss work for a commitment at school, simply sharing the details and putting a game plan in place ensures work still gets done.
Melissa Cappas Masse, partner and senior managing director at WinterWyman
3. Have humane scheduling practices
Inconsistent work schedules create a lot of avoidable problems for working mothers in hourly positions. It’s difficult to plan your finances if you have wild fluctuations in the number of hours you’re working. And it’s often more difficult for working mothers in these roles to schedule babysitters, doctor appointments, parent-teacher meetings, or any of the other obligations that come with being a parent.
I think there are three concrete steps businesses can take to make their scheduling policies more accommodating to working mothers.
- Provide a good faith estimate of hours employees can expect each week and notify them in advance on week’s they’re going to be scheduled for fewer hours, so that they can plan their finances accordingly.
- Give staff their schedules further in advance so parents can plan out their kids’ schedules.
- Implement a shift swap policy that allows staff to trade shifts they don’t want with one another, giving parents more flexibility.
Henry Updegrave, marketing manager at Nowsta
4. Create a relaxation space
My business partner and I know how stressful parenting can be, which is why we recently set up a room for employees to relax and recharge their jets. We moved a few things around and created a special “relax” room in our office for employees to use whenever they’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or just tired in general.
The relax room includes mattresses, dim lighting, massage chairs, speakers playing relaxing sounds, and cold beverages. We also made sure to put the beds on adjustable frames so employees can lay down and relax yet still work if they want. So far, the relax room has had a tremendous impact on productivity and stress levels. I can tell our employees are in much better moods and like taking breaks in there.
Matthew Ross, co-owner and COO at The Slumber Yard
5. Schedule company events during work hours
It’s great when companies want to do something nice for employees such as holiday parties, happy hours, employee engagement activities, trainings, dinners, and events that bring employees together. However, when you have these events outside office hours working moms often struggle to find childcare.
If companies must host events outside normal business hours, give plenty of advance notice or allow moms to invite their families (especially children) — or, at least, don’t make the events mandatory. Better yet, set up an employee engagement committee with a balance of all demographics, ages, and stages of life to get a complete picture of what works best for your employees.
Tommia Hayes, digital communications manager at Community Health Charities