The compatibility of work and family is an important issue for employees in Germany. Changing social roles within the family and various childcare options need to be reconciled within the family. Additionally to this, one of the main factors which needs to be considered is the employment relationship, be it regarding working hours, the flexibility of the boss and the relationship with coworkers, all of which can put additional pressure on parents.
In addition to government regulations to support parents, the immediate situation in one's own team should not be overlooked. Annoyance when planning holidays, absences due to illness of the children and punctually ending the workday because you need to get home to your family can cause annoyance among some childless colleagues.
Employees with children also often find the situation stressful, as their parental status places additional restrictions on their personal and working lives. In a study conducted by the AOK Federal Association, working parents named the permanent lack of time as a main stress factor.
With an awareness of the needs of colleagues, better conditions for cooperation can be created in a team. We have collected a few ideas, how everyone can contribute to create a better environment for colleagues with children and increase understanding for their situation.
The schedule of working parents is like a house of cards. If one element shifts or falls away, the whole construct starts to sway and crumble.
A meeting before the regular start of work or an event after work requires a lot of planning. Child-care, transport and the partner's plans have to be reconciled, which cannot be done at a moments notice..
Of course, this does not automatically make the private life of other colleagues any less important. Rather, it is about mutual understanding for the situation of the other. After all, no one feels good when he or she has to tell the boss that they cannot arrange to attend a professional appointment.
Scheduling in advance, collaborative efforts for time management and appointment options can relax such a situation. Even if this does not always solve the problem completely, at least everyone in the team feels taken seriously and understood and can include their own preferences to more easily facilitate a balance between work and private life.
Parental leave is no holiday
Anyone who looks enviously at colleagues who take parental leave is likely to forget the struggles of being a new parents. Even the parents themselves first have to learn how much work a baby really is. Together they lay the foundation for the future family life. Not a meaningless project, is it?
Nevertheless, on average only 36% of fathers take parental leave, and that for the comparatively short period of 3.5 months. For many of them, this is also connected with the fear of being disadvantaged at work, should they choose to make use of it.
Although the tendency is slightly increasing, parents generally fear consequences at work if they decide to take family leave. Women in particular find themselves in an enormous field of tension here. If they return to work early, they are quickly considered to be uncaring mothers; if they stay at home with their child for longer, they fear disadvantages when they return to work.
Support and encouragement from the working environment can make a big difference here. Last but not least, a rethinking of the daily work routine should be carried out with extensive communication between the new parent and his or her workplace so that the mutual expectations, wishes and needs can be clearly stated and a mutual agreement can be found.
An open ear
Like any other person, parents feel the need to talk about their problems. Be patient and refrain from giving well-meant advice. Sometimes an attentive, adult listener can be very helpful.
As an outsider, it may sound like an excuse when a colleague tells you in detail about the child's illness or mishaps on the way to kindergarten. In fact, what a person is really interested in here is to describe a challenging situation that is on his mind. Just like you tell your friends about your problems. So an open ear can work wonders here. Be supportive, even if you yourself have no experience with children or childcare.
It is not meant as a personal attack if parents prefer to eat alone or hardly participate in office gossip. The time pressure simply requires a high level of concentration on each and every task. If you want to get off work on time, you have to be efficient. Punching out at 5:01 p.m. is not the end of the responsibility.
So in some respects, colleagues with and without children are not as different as one might think at first glance. Understanding and cooperation between all team members can contribute to a more comfort and happiness at work. For some people, time at work may even be a short break from their parental duties and can help them to be more successful in both areas.