The Management Centre
Call us: +44 (0)20 7978 1516
For Learning & Development: yvette@managementcentre.co.uk
For Consultancy: bernard@managementcentre.co.uk
Next public training: Managing Multiple Priorities Book now
graphic

Avoiding the parenting penalty

Flexible working

Avoiding the parenting penalty – take a flexible approach to ensure working parents and carers can be at their best.

Charity and non-profit managers know that supporting working parents and carers makes sense. The majority of people walking in the voluntary sector are women[1] and being a working parent or carer is on the rise too[2]. Therefore, a large portion of the people in your organisation are likely to need to balance work with family life and other responsibilities. Where there is no provision made for this, managing your workload alongside caring for your loved ones can be a real headache. Yet flexible working and homeworking has remained relatively low. Why is this? Are we still tied to the 9-5 pattern because it actually works? Are we more productive with restrictive working hours? Or are we just stuck with a concept that we inherited decades ago? It’s likely to be the latter, given the numerous global studies that show how flexible working reduces sick leave, increases motivation and productivity[3].

2020 has changed things dramatically

Parenting while working

Since March, many parents had the new conundrum of juggling home-working with home-schooling. Managers had to find new ways to organise work so their teams could ‘get through this’ as lockdown set in. For some managers this was a great opportunity to finally get home-working and flexible hours off the ground. For others, reviewing work patterns, redeployment and re-training has been essential to create more flexible ways to deliver services. But for some, this was a painful transition. ‘This must be super tough for all those micro-managers out there being forced to let go’ was one of a number of tweets on the topic we saw in mid-March.

Now things are changing again

Open for Business

Shops are opening, and people are being asked to return to work from furlough. Some children can go back to school. Those micro-managers might be delighted and thinking it’s time to get everyone ‘back’ and ‘being normal’ again. Sadly for them, it’s likely they will be disappointed. With being told to remain at home if you can and with schools only partially open as we approach the summer holidays, there is a need for a longer-term view to planning work. The introduction of a more flexible furlough this month can go some way to alleviate the pressure on workers and employers alike (where the organisation can support bringing workers back without full financial support). However, full-time on-site working will always be a challenge for parents and carers. In turn, this flies in the face of equality and inclusion: working parents and carers who are not supported will face career clashes and pay a penalty in terms of their career, their development and even their wages.

Here are five actions managers can take to avoid this conundrum:

1. Results not hours:

Productivity is not a measure of how many things get ticked off the list, but rather the impact the work has. Focus your performance management practices on the results you expect people to achieve, and the ways in which you see them developing. Do not measure people simply on being present and the hours you expect them to put in. Of course, flexible hours can help – allowing people to work at different times of day, part time working, and even annualised hours can be hugely beneficial to provide structure to work and manage expectations on all sides. But whatever pattern someone works, ask what would success look like? How can we measure impact? What is a realistic achievement?

2. Listen, don’t assume

Don’t make the mistake of lumping all parents and carers into one category. Everyone has different needs and different motivations – just as they have different skills and abilities. Take time to listen to what would work for each person and what support they actually want. Ask questions to help shape planning: what works with your childcare / caring provision? How does this vary over the year? How can we spot problems before they become an issue? 

3. Redefine professionalism

Distractions at home

Leaving home at the door is simply not an option now. Home is the door, and kids can open doors. You may have to accept interruptions in zoom meetings, all manner of background noises and moments of distraction. None of this makes anyone less professional – it’s just that life is life and we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. People will need to leave your video call if there is a problem in another room just as they would need to leave the office in the case of a home emergency. Professionalism is about how you get the job done, and that includes how you manage the unexpected and support others to manage the unexpected. Try asking do you need a break, shall we come back to this later? Is there a better time of day for you? What other support can I or the team give you?

4. Review, test, review

Supporting the needs of everyone in your team is going to take some creative thinking. And whenever we try new things, it’s a good idea to keep them under review. Things change, and whatever arrangements you put in place today, they are likely going to need to change again in the future. Keep asking: is this still working for you? What is going well? What is not going so well and how can we change that?

5. Recognise and celebrate value

Parents and carers can often face negative assumptions and perceptions from others in their team or organisation – for example assuming part-time working means part-time commitment to doing a great job. The assumption here is that putting in hours equates to delivering outcomes. Which is not realistic – as the converse can also be true: people put in long hours and have little to show for it. These kinds of biases and assumptions can lead to a long-term tax on careers, with lack of opportunities for development and promotion. As a manager you can combat negative assumptions and perceptions that others may hold. Ensure you are recognising and promoting the successes people achieve. Highlight the positive impacts their work is having so they and the rest of the team see the value they bring to the table. Look to create a culture of understanding and support where the whole team comes together to celebrate one another. Address negative behaviours from team meetings, and challenge assumptions when you see or hear them. Ask the team; How can we support each other better? What value does each person bring to the team? Ask yourself: What am I doing to ensure that successes are being recognised?

There is no one way to help people to do well in their work. But ignoring their personal circumstances or expecting everyone to be able to commit the same time and energy to work is just not realistic. With a bit of creativity and well-placed trust you can make flexibility work for your team, and in turn your team will do great work.

Find out more

If you need further ideas on how to support your teams now working at a distance, take a look at our Managing at a Distance programme or contact us online.

 


[1] The majority of the voluntary sector workforce are women, with men making up a third of the total workforce in June 2018. Data taken from this NCVO report on workforce demographics.

[2] ONS figures show that in April to June 2019, 3 in 4 mothers with dependent children (75.1%) were in work in the UK –

[3] BBC article – Why Finland leads the world in flexible work. Contains links to reports on recent studies around flexible working.

Share Avoiding the parenting penalty

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Contact us
Laura Slater

About Laura Slater

Laura specialises in project management and management development Laura has 8 years experience in the charity sector, in particular developing and delivering volunteer and community projects. Before joining =mc...

More

What can we help you with?

Need a quick answer to a specific challenge? Not sure what you're looking for or haven't time to search? Send me a message and we'll get back to you as soon as possible with an answer.

Or if you'd prefer to speak to someone, call 020 7978 1516.

Signature

Yvette Gyles, Director

Ask Us a Question
Looking for online learning?
Click here

Thank you for visiting the =mc website today.

We are all experiencing dramatic changes due to Covid-19. =mc are very much here for you and your colleagues across the non-profit sector.

All of our training programmes are now available as online learning.

Visit our Learning and Development page to find out more about our safety measures for future face-to-face training.

If you’d like to speak to an experienced consultant about the challenges you’re facing, and how online learning could help you to navigate those, contact us here or call 020 7978 1516.

Take care and stay safe,

  The Management Centre Team

Thank you for visiting the =mc website today.

We are all experiencing dramatic changes due to Covid-19. =mc are very much here for you and your colleagues across the non-profit sector.

All of our training programmes are now available as online learning.

To understand the differences between online and face-to-face learning, visit our Learning & Development page here. There you'll also find details of how we can work with you to ensure face-to-face training is run safely, when it's appropriate to do so.

If you’d like to speak to an experienced consultant about the challenges you’re facing, and how online learning could help you to navigate those, contact us here or call 020 7978 1516.

Take care and stay safe.

The Management Centre Team