When the working parent juggle becomes a struggle (and what organizations like REA Group do to help)

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Right now, working parents are feeling the pinch like never before. Navigating new workplace norms and the relentlessness of sick children is placing unprecedented pressure to perform well at work and parenting, even when things feel like they are falling apart.

As an organization that has just been recertified as a great place to work, REA knows a thing or two about providing meaningful support to working caregivers to ease some of this pressure.

Liz Fox, Chief Growth Officer at Circle In recently chatted to REA’s Senior HR Business Partner and mother of one, Bree Dickson to deep-dive into this important topic.

A Best Practice Parental Leave Policy

First up, Bree said organizations need to have generous parental leave benefits for all parents. 

When she had her daughter, she was lucky to have access to REAs 20 week market-leading parental leave policy, which meant she could be present as a new parent and not have to worry about finances. As Bree said, “that kind of set the tone for me being a caregiver.”

With a keen focus on building exceptional people leaders and inclusive teams, the policy also includes:

  1. Continued superannuation payments during parental leave.
  2. Regular communication checkpoints with leadership to ensure a smooth transition back to work.
  3. Pay for 100% of hours even though returnees only work 75% for the first month.
  4. A return to work bonus.

What Does Meaningful Support Look Like?

While Bree’s return to work was smooth sailing, she knows all too well the constant push and pull of being a working parent, and just how critical it is to have a supportive workplace. 

For her, market-leading support all starts with leaders who are genuinely passionate.  

It shouldn’t just be a nice-to-have but intentional and genuine. At REA, “we’re constantly asking, listening, and reviewing,” Bree said. Her rationale is that if organizations don’t make it a focus, then they’ll lose their talent to somebody else that will.

Offering different types of support just makes good business sense. When employees are afforded flexibility and offered support, they are more loyal and want to give back more than they receive. 

REA’s model means that employees are set up to thrive.  This includes:

> A flexible hybrid working policy.

> A working from home parent’s Slack channel for people to share experiences and offer support.

> The Circle In platform that not only supports its employees but signals how important wellbeing and balance is to the organization.

“Circle In is just a really great resource to start, but also to support conversations for our people, and also our leaders.” 

At REA, it’s about being empowered to do what you need with little explanation. And that looks different for everybody, so flexibility is key. Some people need the flexibility to take calls with kids in the background; others need to leave early so they can coach their kid’s basketball team.  

Bree takes advantage of this flexibility and role models this for her team too by saying, “I’m leaving early to do this or this is happening.”

Both Liz and Bree agreed that for all the awful parts of COVID, it has normalized that it’s okay for people to fit in their caring responsibilities alongside their professional ones. 

On Creating a Strong Culture

Company values play a huge part in informing the culture at REA. They’re at the core of everything and everybody lives by them.

“I think if you can nail your values, and they show up truly in every scenario at every level, then you’re bound to have a strong culture.” 

The culture at REA starts from the moment you arrive.  

Here’s how Bree summarizes it: “it’s full of heart, we genuinely care about each other, we accept each other, we have true connections, we do stuff together, we get stuff done together. There are no heroes, there are no egos (that just doesn’t really fly here). We share problems, we celebrate our wins, and accept people for who they are.” 

Both Liz and Bree agreed that while it’s very nuanced, your culture isn’t real if the experience of the people doesn’t match.

Measuring Success

In addition to their Annual Engagement Survey, REA utilizes a variety of tools to pulse-check the impact of initiatives and policies. These include:

> Rolling out regular ad hoc surveys to check in on how things are going.

> Measuring statistics regarding people returning from parental leave, performance, career advancement, and talent outcomes of people who are parents or caregivers.

> Anecdotal feedback that dictates where the agenda goes.

“We have many forums where we bring that information back together with our centers of excellence and say, there’s a theme here, I heard that as well. What are we doing about it? Is this in our roadmap? Do we need to change our roadmap?” 

3 Practical Steps Your Organization Can Take

  1. Make it a priority to talk to your people and just really listen to what they have to say. This means understanding their experiences to properly inform the decisions you make about what’s next for your organization.
  2. Find where the energy is in your organization and use those people to share their stories. What’s hard? What tips do they have? 
  3. Keep the conversation alive.

“Vulnerability is a superpower.”

Circle In has developed a comprehensive family benefits package to help you reflect on your current offerings and policies and build a more holistic support experience for your workplace. You can download it here.

To view the on-demand webinar in full here.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can support your employees, click here to talk to us today.

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Thank you for being a progressive leader and supporting your working caregivers.

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