In The Workplace: Why I started an ‘Employees with Young Families’ network

My work place is a pretty inclusive place. We have staff networks which cater for the protected characteristics such as race, sex, age and disability. And although its not perfect its definitely one of the more inclusive workplaces I’ve been at.

A couple of months after my daughter was born I found myself speaking to colleagues who were experiencing the same kind of things that I was: being especially tired at work, struggling to make it in for early morning meetings, having to sometimes leave work at short notice and potentially needing to change our working hours or work from home in order to cover childcare arrangements. As it turns out, there wasn’t a place where people could share experiences, swap tips and be inspired by each other’s stories. There were good examples around the company of people who were able to build a  successful and progressive career while still being present at home and enjoying family life but no forum for how they managed to achieve it to be shared with everyone else. On top of this, a lot of people had suggestions on how to improve the organisational policies and guidance in regards to areas that affect employees with young families. These include areas such as the Flexible Working policy and the Keeping In Touch process.

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So, instead of complaining about it, I did something about it and setup a network for Employees with Young Families. I chair the network and have 9 executive team members who all contribute to the strategic direction of the network and have individual responsibilities such as communications, event management and policy management.

I knew there was going to be a demand for a network like this. But I have been really surprised about the passion and involvement from staff from across the company. In just over a year, the network has grown to over 200 members. What’s also struck me is the mix of the members. Around half are men which shows the growing involvement that fathers have in parenting these days. We also have members from all different levels of seniority, from the most senior to the most junior members of staff which also shows that most working parents face the same issues, regardless of pay or job title!!

Through the process of setting up the network, it has really proved to me that many companies are still catching up on how to best support their staff who have young families. Being a parent of young children brings many challenges in terms of the workplace, both physical and mental, and it’s beneficial for organisations to do their best to support their staff. There are many business benefits, not least the ability to maintain the workforce.

flex-workingThe network has achieved so much in a short space of time. So far the we have held workshops on flexible working, finding childcare arrangements, work-life balance, progressing your career as a working parent and how to manage the Keeping In Touch process while on parental leave. We’ve also hosted a family fun day with kids sports and a bouncy castle. We’ve helped people get flexible working arrangements and arranged special days where we’ve created a baby friendly environment for staff to bring babies in to work to meet colleagues. We’ve inspired many colleagues to progress their career, get promoted while on parental leave and return to work ready and enthusiastic to dive right in again. To top of the list of all these great achievements, the network was nominated for the Inclusivity award at the ENEI awards earlier in the year. We didn’t win this time but I’m sure we’ll take the prize home next year!

Growing the network has been one of my proudest achievements. As well as the sheer pride of my idea growing into something tangible that has made a real impact on people’s lives, I’ve also personally benefitted from the services of the network as an employee. Seeing positive examples of fathers actively involved both at home and work as helped me to progress my career while being the present dad that I’ve always wanted to be.

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I would really urge you to think about setting something up in your own company. Especially if you are experiencing some of the issues that the majority of us face when working with a young family.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Does your organisation have a young families network? Is it an inclusive environment where flexible working is encouraged? Hit me up on the socials or drop a comment below!

Elliott

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