In this time of C19, lockdown and imposed “levels of restrictions”, expectant and new working parents need the help of their employers.
The rules and regulations imposed as a result of C19 can have a devastating impact on new working families. Figures suggest that there is a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. And, the fallout from this will have a massive impact on the retention of valuable talent and their ability to return to work fit and well.
New parents are facing considerable challenges
A survey undertaken by Aptaclub, aimed at pregnant women and mothers of 0-4 month old babies, found that over 50% were struggling with anxiety, fear and loneliness. The survey found that four in ten women surveyed felt isolated as a direct result of the ‘new normal’. Without a doubt, anxiety ranked highly, with 54% saying they felt anxious at some point, while 50% said they were lonely and 36% were scared about being alone during crucial moments such as pregnancy scans and the birth.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists state that this increased anxiety is likely to revolve around:
- Covid-19 itself
- The impact of social isolation resulting in reduced physical support from family and friends
- Potentially reduced household finances
- The major changes and disruption in NHS antenatal care.
Because of coronavirus, new parents are unable to welcome certain family and friends into their home to help. This undoubtedly contributes to loneliness and isolation, and new parents (mothers and fathers alike) will most certainly feel this lack of support.
New parents often rely on the support of their family and friends in the early weeks and months of becoming a parent. Whether it’s bringing food over, cooking meals, or looking after the newborn while they nap or shower, any help is often welcomed with open arms. Many new mothers struggle with loneliness when their partner, their friends and family return to work after celebrating the arrival of the baby.
Sense of loss
The inability to introduce the baby to family and friends or to welcome people into homes may create a sense of loss. Not being able to meet other new parents at events such as antenatal classes all contribute.
There are heartbreaking stories of expectant mums unable to attend key appointments with partners or family, sometimes hearing distressing news with no support present as they have been forbidden by the hospital to attend. Additionally, mothers have had to labor on their own as fathers have been kept away, accused of being C19 risks. All experiences that were neither planned for or expected.
Some of these experiences will be life scarring. From the first to the third week of the initial lockdown in March the number of adults that contacted the NSPCC Helpline about parental mental health increased by just over a quarter (28%).
How can employers help new parents?
New working parents are challenged at the best of times and now is the time for employers to lean in and offer as much support as possible.
With little support available for these new families, employers have the opportunity to support their valuable employees beyond supporting them with the legalities of maternity and paternity leave.
Here are just a few suggestions for employers to support these new working parents at such an emotionally challenging time:
Recognise both parents, not just women
Both parties need support. Young fathers are easily forgotten and a person to talk to, and explore the challenges of parenthood in the context of career is as valuable to them as it is to new mums.
Encourage new fathers to take their paternity leave in full
New fathers should be encouraged to take their paternity leave in full, and to do it without fear of a negative impact on their career. In these times of limited connection, this has never been more important for the health of the couples marriage/partnership, and for the new father himself.
Provide support early
As soon as the pregnancy is announced, help parents prepare for the changes that are coming their way. Help them by exploring all the information they don’t know through conversation and focus.
Involve (and if necessary train) managers
Very often all conversations are left to HR. Anecdotal evidence suggests that new parents who successfully transition back to the work are those who had an empathic and emotionally intelligent manager who support and advocate for them throughout the whole process.
Encourage coaching conversations
Encourage coaching conversations between managers and new parents, to explore career goals in the context of a new baby, the help and support required from the organisation, and any fears and anxieties that may arise.
Make managers aware of their biases and assumptions
It’s amazing how many managers assume what a new baby means for a new parent in terms of career and aspirations. Make them aware of these biases and assumptions so that they can work to remove them. Help them to remove unintentional discrimination and make better decisions.
Develop a four-stage plan
- Before leave
- During leave
- Transition back to work
- Business as normal
For each of these stages the expectant parent has different needs of the role and the employer:
Think about what needs to happen to transition out of the business. What support is needed to make this successful? How does a successful leave look and feel? Does the individual have concerns, either as an employee or as a new parent? What level of contact the new parent might need during leave?
Celebrate the arrival of the new baby, and be prepared if the outcome is not the one the new parents were hoping for. Make the most of KIT days. Stay connected
Transition back to work
Consider the plan for a successful transition back to work. Do you need to re-contract working behaviours? What about flexibility of working hours, team meeting times etc?
Business as usual
Ensure that you set regular check-ins to assess how new parents are managing, where the stress points are, and how the organisation can help them better.
Consider introducing a buddying programme
A buddying programme with other new parents is a great way to share learning and experiences and to offer peer to peer support during challenging times. If numbers allow, launch a young parent group as a way to support each other.
Link with wider wellbeing and mental health programmes
The new parent may not be aware of the level of need they might have for these programmes. Consider connecting them with your wellbeing team through all four stages of parenthood.
Watch out for signs of stress
Whilst these are trying times for everyone, this group of people has the propensity to be missed. The amount of change they experience under normal circumstances is phenomenal, let alone during a pandemic. Therefore, watching for signs of stress is vital.
Why Support Working Parents?
The danger of not supporting this group of employees is the very real potential that they will not return to work after the baby has been born. The level of anxiety, exhaustion, loneliness, and impact on mental health may be significant enough to prevent a healthy and positive return to the workplace. Therefore, there is a danger that these individuals will be lost from the workplace forever.
Equal Talent work closely with forward thinking organisations to help and support this very special employee group. From 1:1 bespoke coaching programmes through to group coaching programmes we have worked with hundreds of working parents and would be delighted to discuss our insights further.
Please drop us a line to find out more.