HR Company Solutions MD Madelein Smit shares her ideas for creating a parent-friendly working environment.

When I sort to create a culture within my business, it was something I pursued with specific intent. I knew that the people I wanted in my business were people just like me and I drew on the struggles that I had personally faced in a corporate environment. As a mother of two children, I understood the essential need to create a culture where moms could feel safe in knowing that the challenges that they faced were no different to the challenges that I faced as a working Mom. My children are no different to those of my employees and they deserve the same attention, time and treatment from their Mom as I would give my own children.

So, I decided to change my office environment to a mom-friendly environment. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t run a day care. But I do create a working atmosphere that incorporates the essence of all parents’ mental health that is a safe space for my employees to honestly give of their time to me as well as their families.

Here is how you can create a healthy work culture for parents in your business.

1 More sick days during the winter months 

As our labour law only provides up to 3 days per year for family responsibility it’s rather stressful for parents especially when they have more than one child. When I discuss unpayable benefits this always comes up.  It is highly beneficial create a culture where we offer more sick days for parents during winter months. This can be in lieu of over time or additional hours put in on weekends or at home.

2 Allow working from home

In a world where technology is at our fingertips, we can afford parents the opportunity to work remotely. People are very willing to go the extra mile for someone that they trust and also trusts them. If we, as leaders and bosses, give the opportunity to employees to prove that they can be trusted to get work done, we can build relationships with our employees that can last forever.

3 Empathy and support

Empathy lets us better understand the people we are trying to serve or work with.  Sadly, in my profession of working with job seekers, I have come to understand that the relationship building with a recruit stops shortly after the first day. Life is a journey and along the way, you will meet many people. Some of them you will help, assist or advise. Others will help, assist and advise you. It has been my experience that when you think you are there to help someone else, chances are they are there to help you.

Your employees become your family and, if you must be realistic, you cannot build your business without them and they cannot live a fulfilled life without your business. Trust, not money, is the currency of business and life. Trust can accelerate and mistrust can destroy any business, team or relationship. No matter what your role is, trust influences every aspect of your success.

3 Provide access to food delivery 

I know it sounds bizarre but working parents face many challenges that are a part of everyday life and the daily grind of grocery shopping and cooking on top of your workload is stressful. I offer my employees a home cooked meal that they can take home for dinner. It gets delivered to their desks just before closing time and it is wholesome and freshly prepared so they can spend time with their families and not in the kitchen or rely on expensive and unhealthy takeaways.

I’m not saying start a catering division. I’m simply suggesting that you, as a leader, find a way to make life easier for your staff by finding a service provider that can deliver healthy meals to your office.

I believe with all my being that a simple gesture such as this will transform the mental health of your staff because spending more beneficial time with your family will make you a happier person. Happy employees help you to run a successful business.

4 Promote mental health wellness

Parents do not have time for themselves. Ever. Let’s face it, weekends are jam-packed and your lunch-time break isn’t long enough to go to the bank, pop to the shops and handle your personal things too.  As a Mom and partner, my biggest desire is to walk through a mall and look at things in the window, without a demanding child tugging on me. Mental wellness is a giant part of any person’s ability to perform. If they had a day every quarter to spend time on their emotional wellness, in whatever way they choose, are we not creating happier people?

Some might say that I’m living in a dream world and all these ideas of creating a culture where we put our employees first will never work in large organisations or in small businesses or that millennial`s all demand this anyway.  The fact is that we are programmed as humans not to like change so why fix what is not broken?  If we open our minds to the possibility that a healthier employee that will outperform what is expected of them, how much are we saving with employee retention compared to hiring and training fees.  Fifty-two percent of the Millennial generation don’t believe in loyalty but as a Millennial myself, I think that we need to bring back the culture of loyalty in order to retain staff and build a more stable framework for our businesses within the economy. I have to ask you, as an employer and fellow business leader, when is the last time that have you had a conversation with an employee on another floor or office regarding how far they are with that five-year plan that you discussed during the interview?