How can employers address parental burnout?

By Nicola Jagielski, Health Assured’s associate director of clinical services

Research claims that one in 12 parents are suffering burnout. Burnout is more commonly associated with work—but the stigma around the difficulty of raising children is lifting. More and more, people and organisations are beginning to understand that juggling work and parenting is incredibly difficult.

The criteria for burnout—whatever the cause—are the same. Exhaustion, inefficacy and detachment. Parenting is a tiring business, it can be emotionally draining, and sometimes it can feel like a lack of concrete reward is making your struggle harder.

It’s essential that someone with these problems feels supported in their role at work—as an employer, you have a duty of care. So, what can you do if you suspect an employee is suffering parental burnout? There is no quick and easy answer. Everyone is different, after all, and actions which are positive for one person might not have the same effect on another.

Here, then, are a few ways to ensure you’re making the parents in your workforce know they have your support.

Consider flexible working

Childcare is difficult. There are many considerations—time, expense, location—and someone working the standard 9-5.30 day may find suitable care is out of reach.

Changing someone’s patterns, even just by an hour a day, can make a world of difference. Knowing that they can start work at 10am opens up plenty more options for a harassed parent, and makes it easier for them to slow down a little in the morning. The school run can be completed, a coffee drunk and thoughts gathered.

A day per week working remotely helps parents of very young children spend more time with them, nurturing a stronger emotional connection and avoiding the detachment mentioned earlier.

Ensure workloads are manageable

If someone needs to stay back for an hour to finish a task, that’s an hour snatched away from time with their child. Make sure workloads are realistic and manageable, and ensure parents are able to complete everything on time. Their work/life balance will improve, and the risk of burnout lessen.

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Communicate openly and often

Ask how they’re feeling. Tell them you’re available to listen. Parenting is incredibly stressful, and sometimes a friendly, listening ear is all that’s needed for someone to feel a bit less pressured. If you have an employee assistance programme, this is perfect—if a parent feels uncomfortable talking to a manager or co-worker about their worries, talking to a qualified counsellor over the phone may be easier.

All of this advice is about lessening pressure and stress. If you follow it well, and stay open and reassuring to the parents who work for you, you’ll find that making their lives a little bit easier reaps rewards for your business.

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