Mothers are struggling to keep up with demands at work and at home, and it’s only getting worse. A recent Canadian Women’s Foundation survey found that more than one-third (39%) of mothers reported experiencing work-life balance issues in 2023, up from 28% in 2021 – this number doesn’t account for the parents who have felt that they needed to choose to leave the workforce because of stress, financial burden, or missing too many days for their children’s needs.
Indeed, research by the C.D. Howe Institute found that only 20% of mothers who entered unemployment in 2019 did so because of job loss. This presumably leaves the remaining 80% unemployed by choice – one reason being to maintain the home.
While this is a vital and important job that many parents take on willingly, the C.D. Howe Institute study deciphered that 6% of the unemployed would like to be working but could not due to outstanding commitments, such as choosing to stay home and look after their kids (C.D. Howe Institute).
Despite workplace and work hours flexibility becoming more accepted since the pandemic – 37% of businesses operated remotely during the pandemic (Stats Canada) – employers still have untapped opportunities to increase parents’ physical and mental well-being in the workplace.
By increasing well-being through intentional support, employers can create a safe, supportive, and more productive environment for parents within the workplace. The key to reducing absenteeism? Creating a supportive company culture, increasing employee flexibility, and providing inclusive benefits.
Here are three actionable steps your company can take to make work more agreeable for everyone and, ultimately, reduce absenteeism in the workplace.
Create a supportive company culture
Creating a supportive company culture is an essential step toward reducing absenteeism in the workplace. You can encourage your employees in management positions to be understanding and accommodating toward the unique challenges working parents face.
There are many ways to create a positive, inclusive working environment, some of which you may already have in place. An excellent place to start is to allow your employees’ certain degrees of flexibility within their working schedule when possible.
Flexibility is crucial for parents to balance their work and personal lives. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Benefits Canada, 36% of mothers and 29% of fathers said they would accept a salary cut in return for a fully remote working arrangement.
Indeed, among the 57% of respondents who said they were looking for a new job at the start of 2023, 82% of working moms specified that they were interested in hybrid or fully remote employment options (Benefits Canada).
According to C.D. Howe Institute, mothers have a relatively high chance of rejoining the labour force when their youngest child is less than 1 year old – which coincides with the end of paid parental leaves. After that, the rate of their reentrance dips for several years, until they slowly rise again, peaking when their youngest child is roughly 7 years old. To ease the transition for working parents – especially mothers – back into the workforce, degrees of flexibility regarding their work schedule is imperative.
We understand that it’s not feasible for every organization to incorporate a remote or hybrid workplace. However, other options enable flexibility without employees having to spend prolonged periods outside the office.
Core hours are a great example of flexibility without a remote or hybrid schedule. Core working hours mean identifying a set of hours when team members agree to be “live” and available to one another for meetings or feedback. This allows employees the flexibility to adjust their working hours during the rest of the day.
As a parent, knowing it’s okay to notify your team and leave your desk for an hour to be able to tend to domestic commitments, such as picking up the kids from school, doctor’s appointments, or just even having the flexibility to work hours in which you are more productive, can make a world of difference to their relationship with work.
However, creating a supportive working environment goes beyond flexibility. As a manager, CEO, or boss, you must also lead by example, promoting work-life balance and family-friendly practices. When leaders prioritize their own well-being and encourage their team members to do the same, it sets a positive tone for the entire organization.
By nurturing an environment that fosters inclusivity and values work-life balance, your employees will associate work with being a safe space, reducing the risk of absenteeism and increasing workplace morale and retention while decreasing turnover.
Create manageable workloads
According to Stats Canada, 27% of Canadian workers claim to have high to extreme levels of stress daily, and a further 46% of Canadian workers reported that they felt “a bit” of stress on a day-to-day basis.
As an employer, it’s important to be mindful of your employees’ stress levels. An excellent way to do this is by checking in with your employees regularly to see how they’re doing and asking whether they have the capacity to handle their current projects and tasks before giving them new ones. In fact, good communication will increase productivity in the office, as Team Stage estimates that poor communication accounts for 280 hours of lost productivity per employee.
We must also remember that each person’s workload capabilities are unique, especially when working parents have other commitments that sometimes have to take priority over work. An employee’s workload can even differ depending on the season. Employees of school-aged children may need more flexibility or have a lower capacity to take on new projects during school holidays and summer vacations, as childcare for school-aged children during these times is expensive and often difficult to find.
Being mindful of factors such as these, giving employees ample time before a deliverable is expected, and having realistic expectations, will go a long way toward employee satisfaction and overall productivity. Having a fair employer who respects the demands of family life and is considerate regarding deadlines will positively impact absenteeism rates in the workplace.
Include family-friendly healthcare benefits
A survey conducted by WTW highlights that only some employers feel equipped to provide the health necessities of their diverse workforce today (57%) or even in the future (49%). We understand that choosing what to include when selecting benefits for your organization can be intimidating. A diverse age range means a diverse set of priorities, and your goal is to provide support for everyone.
Tailoring your benefits solutions to the needs of families means you can help reduce employee stress and anxiety, decreasing the time off working parents need to get care for sick children. In KixCare’s working parents survey, 55% of respondents believed their employer does not care about their family. The same survey also found that 72% of participants agree that employers should provide support and programs specific to working parents.
Family-friendly benefits include accessible pediatric healthcare services, fertility services, paid leave, and childcare assistance. Having a few family-centric benefits on your company plan will better support your parent employees and help reduce absenteeism in the workplace.
By providing inclusive family benefits, you help your business attract and retain top talent and create a more dynamic work environment where employees can focus on creating a fulfilling career while minimizing the stressors at home.
The Kix360° Approach
KixCare’s pediatric health and wellness membership, Kix360°, offers 24/7 access to a team of specialized pediatric Registered Nurses via messaging and video calling. With unlimited visits per family, every child in your employees’ home gets the specialized care and support they deserve whenever and wherever they are.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners support our KixNurses in providing diagnoses, testing, and prescriptions. They can also provide referrals as needed to Pediatricians and other specialists in children’s health.
All KixTeam members have trained in leading children’s hospitals, including SickKids, CHEO, McMaster Children’s Hospital, Montreal Children’s, and LHSC Children’s Hospital.
Additionally, our KixTeam can provide quality clinical services such as pediatric mental health expertise, medication counselling support (including prescriptions), medical notes and form completion, expert parenting and health resources, and webinars from pediatric professionals to empower your employees in their parenting journey and help reduce absenteeism in the workplace.