6 ways small and midsize businesses can set working parents up for success

(BPT) - The pandemic has dramatically altered the workplace, resulting in remote work becoming more fluid and flexible in the small and midsize business (SMB) ecosystem and beyond. Hybrid and work-from-home experiences are evolving into 'work-from-anywhere' models for many organizations - with workers and companies alike thinking beyond the office. According to a recent American Opportunity Survey by McKinsey, 58% of Americans are now able to work from home at least one day per week, while 35% can work remotely five days per week. This shift is especially important for parents wanting to spend more time with family rather than using those hours for commuting.

As companies of all sizes consider their roles in supporting employees, they must continue thinking outside the box to better support work/life balance needs that in turn attract and retain top talent. Offering the structure and resources to support parents and other employees who value personal time is crucial, as it empowers employees to create the most realistic and functional conditions for themselves and their team(s). Prioritizing unique offerings for employees not only leads to business stability and continuity, but it ultimately allows employees greater autonomy to manage their time so they can be more impactful and effective.

'Business leaders need to adjust their perception of what employees need to be successful and productive - but also well-rounded human beings. It all starts with open conversations and a creative, solution-oriented approach,' said Lindsey Greathouse, director of Global SMB Marketing, Lenovo.

Here are six crucial ways SMBs can accommodate and support the needs of their working parent employees.

1. Maintain an open dialogue by encouraging transparency

Communication is a two-way street. Provide employees with opportunities to freely express their concerns as well as ideas and goals. Employ the best tech tools available to make communication effortless, from video conferencing and messaging to occasional engagement surveys. Encourage employees to share their thoughts in large and small group settings as well as anonymously, fostering a frequent exchange of ideas to benefit the entire organization. Additionally, receiving timely, thorough and straightforward information from leadership helps employees feel included and part of the business. This is especially crucial for working parents who need advance notice for changes as it relates to scheduling, staffing or any other impactful shifts so they can find a solution to minimize any impact to their work and day-to-day lifestyle. Furthermore, with teams being more dispersed than ever before, clear communication is key to ensure the workforce is aligned and aware of any and all changes that affect individuals as well as the broader team. As everyone has learned over the past few years, change is inevitable - but is more welcome when employees know what to expect. Being fully informed about organizational changes helps alleviate anxiety or concerns.

2. Offer customized or flexible hours

Thanks to today's advanced technology, employees can truly work from anywhere. Allowing employees to determine their best scheduling solutions helps improve productivity while letting them know your company cares about their well-being. In a 2021 Gartner Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43% of respondents said flex hours helped boost productivity, and nearly one-third (30%) found the reduction in commuting time helped them be more productive at work. To ensure employees remain productive, provide up-to-date smarter technology tools and software, like the best laptops and mobile devices for effective collaboration as well as tools that offer edge computing, secure cloud computing capabilities - and sufficient training to guarantee secure connectivity, wherever they're working.

3. Build positive practices and a healthy culture

There's a reason employees (and prospective employees) care about corporate culture at companies of all sizes - it reflects not only how management views employees, but also makes a real difference in employee well-being. Working toward collective goals within a positive work culture and developing proactive policies around diversity, equity and inclusion will promote a feeling of belonging for all employees, whether they are working parents or not.

4. Work with employees to find creative solutions

Rather than thinking of problem-solving as top-down, collaborating with employees to explore creative solutions that can accommodate the schedule of even the busiest working parent not only opens up the possibility for innovation, but also gives your employees more opportunities for personal advocacy and accountability. In fact, those who are more involved in decision-making or discussions related to improving processes and products will often feel more valued by their employer and therefore, more invested in the success of the organization and their role in the company.

5. Be consistent: Ensure new and current employees have the same benefits/opportunities

As business leaders work with working parents to ensure they are set up for success, it's imperative to ensure the opportunities are consistent between new hires and current employees. If you're offering a new benefit to attract talent, make sure current employees also have that opportunity. This ensures no one, regardless of if they are a working parent or not, feels excluded from opportunities or options that would be beneficial to their growth, development, well-being or overall success.

6. Lead with empathy

Understanding your employees' needs and concerns is the first step toward creating an ideal work environment that works for a diverse team of people in various stages of life. Once you've allowed employees ample opportunities to discuss their concerns with leadership and work together on identifying a remedy for the challenge, business leaders must take the next step by exploring and implementing creative and practical solutions.

'Today's employees - whether they are working parents or recent graduates - have many priorities outside their careers, but that doesn't have to be detrimental to their success,' said Eric Yu, senior vice president, Lenovo SMB and Commercial Product Center. 'There's a lot that businesses small and large can do to make a difference and it starts with communication. Understanding and supporting employee needs for personal and family time shows team members they're valued not only for the results they produce at work but for the people they are outside of work. Businesses small and large can make an impact by listening to what matters most and implementing creative solutions as we adapt to new needs, challenges and advancements in this fast-changing world.'

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