• Written by Heather Walsh

    Market Executive for Merrill Lynch Austin

Q: What does it mean to be a working parent in today’s world?

As a working parent, balancing work, family and other responsibilities can be a challenge. Parents are important to retain and hire, as companies can benefit immensely from “parent skills” such as multitasking, efficiency and patience.

Being a working parent while raising two girls has taught me countless lessons about the importance of taking care of your employees, clients and community.

Q: How has being a working parent influenced how you manage?

To put it simply, I’ve learned that a supported employee is a productive employee.

A personal goal of mine is to continue to hire and inspire parents, particularly women. Of the 134 employees I lead, 47 percent are women and many are parents. I also serve as the Executive Sponsor for LEAD for Women, an employee network that provides mentoring and is dedicated to connecting, developing and elevating women to enable them to make meaningful contributions within our company and the communities we serve.

Q: In your opinion or experience, what are the key things working parents are looking for in an employer?

Employers can retain talent and provide resources to support their employees by implementing policies that address what I believe are three core values: parental leave, mental health and evolving employee needs.

  • Parental Leave: A key pillar of fostering a parent-friendly workplace is providing innovative, flexible programs and benefits for employees, thinking beyond the standard parental leave policy. Parental leave policies are rapidly changing, but many employees are seeking programs that include maternity, paternity and adoptive parent leave, allowing new parents the opportunity to bond with their children. Demonstrating a commitment to supportive parental leave policies can speak volumes to your culture as an organization.
  • Mental Health: As the pandemic revealed, focusing on mental health and emotional wellness is more important than ever. To accomplish comprehensive mental health support, consider partnerships with training and support platforms. For example, Bank of America has partnered with Thrive Global to provide digital training that’s accessible 24/7 and includes resources for stress management, mindfulness, understanding mental health warning signs and building resiliency.
  • Adapting to Employee Needs: My daughters have taught me how to listen, communicate and find common ground with those around me. We know the pandemic accelerated parents, particularly women, opting out of the workforce – make it a priority to modify your offerings, whether it be adjusting a previously rigid 9-to-5 schedule or acknowledging resume gaps in hiring and offering membership programs, your teammates and future hires will feel well supported to be their best at home, and at work.

Some of the most urgent needs we have addressed for parents include back-up child and dependent adult care reimbursement, no-cost coronavirus testing and related office visits, 24/7 Teledoc access and waived refill waiting periods for home delivery of prescription medication.

Q: What should employers keep in mind when it comes to benefits for working parents?

Empowering teammates to be the best they can be at work and at home should be a key ingredient of your company culture mix. As employers try to pursue organizational goals, they should prioritize employee well-being in the office and outside the office; supporting the physical, emotional and financial wellness of teammates, and fostering their career goals, directly relates to work quality and fulfillment. This support is key to employee retention, which is particularly important given increased employee turnover in a post-pandemic environment.

By helping our people, we improve business results through increased talent retention and employee productivity – fostering innovation and delivering for our clients. Being a great place to work can also make a difference in closing the wealth gap and highlighting diversity and inclusion.

To improve family-friendliness, companies can start by reviewing their values and determining how they can promote corresponding culture. Another great step to fostering a family-oriented culture: encourage employee longevity by driving internal career mobility and provide professional development for the next generation of managers and enterprise leaders. Additionally, listen to and support your employees through their immediate and long-term needs, and stay at the forefront of healthcare advancements to ensure employee wellness remains a top priority.

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