The Importance of Happiness for Working Parents: Practical Solutions for Talent Retention

By Alice Vincenti, Founder & Director of Parent Health Hub

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As parents, the happiness of our children is always a strong priority, but often, our own happiness takes a back seat.

The vitality of parental happiness is neurologically attached to children's happiness. Our neurological systems regulate our behaviour, reactions, and emotions, and children, of all ages, are unable to regulate their sensory systems independently. This is where the concept of co-regulation comes into play – children's sensory systems automatically regulate from their parents' systems, linking parental happiness to their children's well-being on a neurological level. Therefore, prioritising our own happiness as working parents is not only beneficial for us but also crucial for our families.

But how does this relate to the happiness of parents in the workplace?

In October 2022, the Guardian newspaper highlighted that an alarming 79,000 parents every year are leaving the workforce in the U.K. This represents a 3% increase in women and a 15% increase in men leaving the workforce compared to the previous year, according to the Office of National Statistics. While the reasons for parents leaving the workforce are multifaceted, a Deloitte report reveals that 61% of people leave work due to poor wellbeing. Further research conducted by BT, in collaboration with the University of Oxford, explores the impact of wellbeing on productivity, and found that an increase of just 1 unit in subjective happiness scores resulted in an astounding 12% increase in productivity. Moreover, further studies showed that higher subjective happiness scores at work correlated with higher returns in the stock market. These findings underscore the importance of the happiness of parents in the workplace, not just for their personal wellbeing but also for retaining talent, reducing the high costs of staff turnover, and positively impacting productivity and revenue.

Practical Solutions for Businesses to Retain Their Working Parents:

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A Culture to Suit:

Flexibility During Key Periods:

Equitable Policies:

Support Systems:

Longevity of Support:

The needs and preferences of employees, especially working parents, can vary widely. However, acknowledging and respecting these differences is crucial for fostering happiness in the workplace. A kind, open culture within a work environment can really improve happiness for all, that accommodates various family styles and needs. This awareness is important for line managers, who are often the first point of call for working parents. Encourage line managers to be open to employees about their needs and to understand that this might differ considerably between themselves or other employees, even if they both return to work for maternity leave in the same month, for example.

Flexibility in the workplace can vary depending on roles and responsibilities. Nevertheless, offering flexibility, even for short periods or during significant life transitions, can make a significant difference. For example, when parents are going through the turbulent period of transitioning their child to a nursery or a new school, a little flexibility in their work schedule can ease the transition for both parents and children, ultimately benefiting the company in the long run.

Maternity and paternity policies can directly impact the majority of your workforce at some point. Ensure that these policies are accessible and clearly communicated to all employees. Consider whether these policies can be improved and expanded to be more inclusive. These policies can serve as a beacon for prospective employees, highlighting your organisation's commitment to supporting working parents.

Create support networks within your organisation for fellow parents. The power of relatability can be very powerful and should not be underestimated. For those employees who may not feel comfortable in a group setting, consider implementing a buddy system. For a new parent during their first week back to work after maternity or paternity leave, a, simple gesture, such as sharing a coffee with an employee who has been there, possibly in a similar sleep-deprived state, may be just the caffeine and comfort necessary for a positive transition back to the workplace.

It's essential to think beyond the initial transition period when it comes to supporting working parents. Research by Jessica Heagren of That Works For Me reveals that 85% of women exit full-time employment within three years of childbirth, with 19% leaving the workforce entirely. This brings into focus the need to consider ongoing support for your working parents throughout their careers, not than just during their initial return to work.

The happiness of working parents really is in everyone's best interests and should be at the forefront of every organisation’s priorities.

While balancing multiple priorities can be challenging, small actions can have a significant impact. By creating a workplace culture that supports the happiness and wellbeing of parents, we will not only improve individual health and happiness but also unlock the positive domino effect on the organisation’s overall performance. Prioritising parental happiness isn’t just good for families; it’s good for business.

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