10 Totally Free Ways Companies Can Support Working Parents

How to give these employees a break—instead of a breakdown

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Amid the end-of-school projects, class parties, closing out FY22, launching a newsletter and normal single mom chaos, I missed the signup window for summer camps.

The last month consisted of me frantically looking for a solution: calling, asking WhatsApp groups, planning a two-week trip to Illinois to get grandparent help and even driving to the rec center to see if we can get moved up the waitlist for a 9 a.m.-12 p.m. basketball camp for my son. (Spoiler: I couldn’t.)

But why should employers care?

Parents are your middle management. They bridge the leaders to the executors and ensure the alignment of teams and resources. If these lynchpins break, the ripple can extend to losing rising stars not being coached, agency resources being underutilized and so much more.

“Flexibility” has become a buzzword used to recruit talent to corporations but, according to Deloitte’s Women @ Work 2023 Report, 30% of women surveyed worldwide said flexibility is more about when they work vs. where they work.

For a working parent, summer is anything but a “break.” So how can employers support working parents as we bid farewell to childcare teachers and schools? It’s about time.

Here are 10 (completely free!) tactics for companies to utilize to give working parents a break, not a breakdown.

1. Have a human-to-human conversation. Companies miss this first and most important piece of empathetic leadership. Acknowledge some team members are entering a busier, less routine season of parenting. By simply acknowledging their challenges, you are creating a culture that sees one another as humans.

2. Lead by example. Perhaps your leaders have stay-at-home partners or hired help, so their routine isn’t drastically altered in the summer. The same cannot be said for most. Demonstrating a work ethic that looks unattainable creates a feeling of constantly failing.

Nearly all (97%) women surveyed by Deloitte believe requesting or taking advantage of flexible work options would affect their likelihood of promotion. Focus on the right things.

3. Implement an agenda policy. No agenda = no attendance. Meetings are the most expensive use of your team’s time. Imagine if Google and Outlook calculated the cost of every meeting?

Create an environment that enables workers to not attend meetings without agendas. If there was no thought put into the “why” behind the meeting, chances are it will be a waste of everyone’s time.

Parents’ most finite resource is time. Give them the “get out of jail free” card.

4. Set up the 24-hour rule. Parents plan their day with the same level of detail as the Super Bowl Halftime Show. If you schedule a last-minute meeting, there is a chance they may be using that time to transition their kid to another activity and you are setting them up for failure, not to mention additional and unnecessary guilt.

The same goes for a last-minute cancellation. I spend the 30 minutes before a meeting putting my kids in front of the TV and making a snack to buy me that hour of focus. If you cancel, it throws everything off.

5. Avoid ‘transition’ times. Camps and summer activities start later and end earlier. So about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is typically the sweet spot for a working parent to attend an important meeting where they need to be on camera, present and presenting.

6. Take advantage of helpful resources.

Level 1: Take notes and send them after the meeting.

Level 2: Record the meeting.

Level 3: Use AI to record the meeting and transcribe and auto-tag when someone is mentioned. Start training your teams to use phrasing like “let’s make sure Jeff follows up with Tim on the sales training plan” so AI can work for you. A few resources to check out are Fathom and Fireflies.

7. Support effective multi-tasking. Make internal meetings video optional. We can still speak eloquently about KPIs and project updates while spreading peanut butter and jelly.

8. Start the week as a support. No Meeting Mondays. I like it because it alliterates and makes sense. Let people start the week getting their most impactful work completed. Start on offense before they move to defense.

If meetings are the symptom, the next two points are the root cause. Micromanagers and meeting-heavy culture stem from a lack of operational excellence.

9. Speak the same success language. Operational excellence is tied to a clear measurement of success. A lot of meetings happen when there is no clear definition of what winning looks like quantitively. OKRs or KPIs tracked weekly allow for autonomy for your teams.

10. Stop the seagulls. Hire great people, tell them what numbers to hit, align on the strategy to get there and get out of their way. “Seagull managers” swoop down and cause unnecessary chaos when they don’t know what the latest news is. Stop the seagulls.

The saying “Want something done? Give it to the busiest person in the room” is real. Working parents can get a lot done in a short about of time. Summer is a great opportunity to showcase the impact of limited meetings, schedule flexibility and empathy.