After having two sons, I thought my third baby, and my first daughter, would be much easier. Granted, my first son was born almost 10 years ago, when I was younger and perhaps had slightly more ability to function without sleep.
On March 27, 2013, my first daughter, Sophia Addison Cooke, was born. She was a great sleeper from the start – it just wasn’t between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am very often. And it is rather difficult for me to sleep during the workday. 🙂
As a man, I’ve heard of other fathers being able to sleep all night while the mother takes care of the baby. Whether or not that’s still the case (my wife implies it isn’t – I’m not so sure) it’s something that all organizations and managers should take some time to consider in making sure new parents, experienced or otherwise, have the time they need to adjust.
Employees finding their way as new parents are going to have some adjustments to make, and as an employer you should adjust along with them. Why? Because in the years to come, the employees starting families will be Millennials, who will make up nearly 40% of the workforce within the next few years and 75% of the workforce by 2030. There will be a lot of new and inexperienced parents, The friendlier you make your maternal and paternal policies for a workforce that – far more than GenXers and Baby Boomers – expect time for a personal life, the better your talent retention will be.
Here’s my list of how I think businesses can better manage those employees who are new parents:
- Give new fathers some extra time off and a more flexible working environment for a period of time after the baby is born. When mothers return from leave, do the same and let them ease into their work routines over a month or two.
- Provide support and understanding. New parents are most likely not going to be as alert as they were previously in the short term, especially since we are seeing more first-time parents in their 30s, and sometimes having their first child in their 40s. Millennials will be having a lot of babies soon!
- Make telecommuting a policy, rather than an exception, for at least one to two days a week if you have an office environment.
- Be flexible – consider providing half days on Fridays and/or Mondays for the first month that a new parent comes back to work.
Sure, I know the work needs to get done and these flexible policies may seem to make that more difficult. Try it – you will be surprised. With most employees, flexibility is a two-way street. If you treat them fairly and understand their situations, most will return the flexibility and will be more willing – and able, with the breaks and flexibility you give them – to do, and do well, what you need them to do. And they will appreciate the work culture and environment you have created.
Of course, there will be some occasional problems and people who try to take advantage. But your managers and HR staff can take care of those situations through good policy and training. Those cases will be the exception and not an excuse for continuing the parent-unfriendly ways of many workplaces of the past.
Flexibility with new parents is good business, especially for the new and fast-changing millennial-centric workforce of today and tomorrow.