There’s nothing quite like peer-to-peer support when you’re a working parent. Whether you’re a first-time mum-to-be embarking on parental leave, or a dad-of-four summoning up the courage to ‘leave loudly’, we’re all in this together. Seeking out other parents to share experiences and lend an empathetic ear can be the morale-booster you’re looking for, not to mention a lifeline for your wellbeing.
Parents’ groups aren’t just for new mums on parental leave. Many organisations now encourage and lead both casual and more structured parents’ groups in the workplace, open to all parents and carers. Endorsing the coming together of working parents sends a clear message: working parents belong here.
This is just one important step towards building an inclusive, family-friendly workplace culture that, when coupled with actionable flexible working policy, will help improve retention and talent acquisition in organisations.¹
Medibank is an organisation committed to the health and wellbeing of its people, implementing policy to drive cultural change, whilst also offering real-world support to ensure the cultural changes are lasting.
In an interview with Luisa Franzke, we take an up-close look at Medibank’s working parents’ support group and ways to start your own.
How did you start the parents’ group at Medibank? How do you make sure it is gender-neutral?
The start of our parents’ group happened organically. People are naturally drawn to others going through similar experiences at around the same time. Our group formed out of conversations newly returned parents struck up with each other after parental leave. We were all at a similar point in our parenting journey, some of us had worked together previously, and we bonded over our common experience.
As the group has evolved, the next round of new mums and dads across the business are hanging out, which is great to see, and our network is expanding. Everyone is welcome.
It’s important to extend the invite to other mums and dads within the organisation who might be at a similar stage, or looking for peer support through whatever journey stage they are in. We can all relate to the working parent juggle, so it has been a terrific network to be a part of.
How has the group helped its participants deal with the challenges of juggling career and home life?
The group has helped us all: from making new friends, to understanding what each other is experiencing (in career and at home). Having the opportunity to catch up regularly is incredibly valuable in supporting each other, and we often share the different ways each of us is making the juggle work as a parent.
What are some key initiatives that have come off the back of your group?
We’ve created networks across the business that extend out of people’s own business units which has built a nice community spirit here. We have regular catch-ups, and people always check in with each other in the corridor.
We’re speaking with the people and culture team about making it a regular support group for Medibank parents. Potentially introducing speakers to offer advice, or including some post-natal exercise sessions for those who are interested and are struggling to find time.
If you’re thinking about getting a more formalised parents’ group up and running in your workplace, here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started.
- Assemble your team – Start with a core group of parents, allocate roles based on talent, and encourage shared leadership.
- Get buy-in from the top – Seek endorsement from senior leaders to boost group visibility and credibility, and ultimately fast-track any impact the group will have on inclusive workplace culture.
- Define your vision and objectives – Gather with purpose by defining a group vision and key objectives.
- Define your budget – Seek funding from the organisation or sponsors, or use the resources you have to hand.
- Set group activities – Schedule activities based on need, and build on what is existing.
- Promote the group – Create marketing materials and reach out individually to all parents and carers. Remember to include those who are expecting or on parental leave. The wider and more diverse the network of parents involved, the stronger the group will be, not to mention the impact it has on its participants.
- Plan for success – Find ways to keep participants focused on actionable solutions to their challenges. Evaluate success and encourage participant feedback.
Launching a parents’ group in the workplace has a powerful impact on the lives of individual parents and their families. Firstly, there’s the enhanced camaraderie formed when parents of all journey-stages come together to share stories and offer each other support. Then there’s the opportunity for working parents to unite to overcome their challenges with actionable solutions instead of going it alone. Parents might learn something new, become more engaged with the organisation, and come away feeling uplifted and empowered.
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