For some working parents, days at the office can feel like a relief and a return to normalcy. But for others, it can be a stressful balancing act. A great way for parents to support each other in the workplace is to start a working-parents group. These groups offer not only professional and social support, but they can also work to advocate for more family-friendly policies in the office.
1. Set your goals
First, think about what you want the group to achieve. While everyone’s situation is unique, concerns such as time management, leave policies, and flexible working hours are shared by most parents. Although sometimes you may just want a safe space to vent, consider focusing on positive solutions to common issues. For example, goals could include:
- Offering support during times of stress. Share your expertise with expecting or new parents. It could be as simple as knowing who to speak with about taking maternity leave, or what you’ll need in order to schedule the lactation room in the office. For those with school-age children, certain times of year can be busier and harder to navigate, with the back-to-school rush and summer being especially difficult. Members can share backup childcare references and even recommendations for self-care.
- Providing the opportunity to socialize. Developing work friendships and a sense of community can be a challenge for working parents. Brown-bag lunch groups or lunchtime outings can be a great opportunity for working parents to get to know co-workers.
- Bringing about change in the organization. If you think that flexible schedules would be a lifesaver for parents, or that employees would benefit from more accessible explanations of family leave and health benefits, the group could work to advocate for such changes.
2. Spread the word
You’ve come up with the mission and goals of your group. So now what?
- You may need HR approval to start a new affinity group. Depending on the size of the organization, there may even be funding available to support group activities. Getting buy-in from HR and senior leadership is key as you’ll want to work with them on issues and get them involved in discussing policies and benefits.
- As you publicize your group, remember to be inclusive. There is no one type of working parent. Include moms, dads, single parents, LGBTQ+ parents, adoptive parents, and parents of both young and older children. Make sure that everyone feels welcome, and be aware of the language that you use. All members should know that their needs and concerns will be addressed.
- Establish a schedule of regular events and updates so that there will be continued interest in the group.
3. Advocate for your needs
An affinity group of working parents can really bring about change in the office. If a concern is shared by a large group, management and HR are more likely to pay attention. Some areas that these groups often focus on are:
- Flexible hours. This can be a huge benefit for working parents. Rather than a 9-to-5 schedule, some parents may want to work a later schedule allowing for morning drop-offs. Others may be helped by an earlier start, allowing them to pick up the kids. If two parents are working, coordinating schedules can result in savings on childcare.
- Remote work options. Working from home can be a big help when you need to be home with sick kids or take commuting time out of your already busy schedule.
- Kid-friendly offices. Workplaces that offer family events and the flexibility to bring your kids to work when needed are growing in popularity.
Are you a working parent? What are some of the issues that you face, and how might a working-parents group help? Tweet at us!
Lakshmi Hutchinson is a freelance writer with experience in the nonprofit, education, and HR fields. She is particularly interested in issues of educational and workplace equity, and in empowering women to reach their professional goals. She lives in Glendale, California with her husband, twin girls, and tuxedo cat.