Welcoming a child into the world is one of the most awe-inspiring and momentous occasions of our lives. However, the joy comes with challenges: new routines, responsibilities, and ways of life. And when it comes to returning to work, employees returning from maternity leave may be experiencing a variety of new stressors from the emotional toll of leaving their baby to the high costs of daycare.
Why should your company offer support to new parents?
According to Maven’s research, more than 75% of expecting mothers say they are excited to return to work after giving birth. But 43% end up leaving their jobs. Why? The struggle of juggling kids and career may have been too much to handle, they needed more flexibility, or childcare was too expensive.
Providing support during the transition back to work can help you improve your company's retention of talented new parents and ensure they don't have to choose between raising children and doing their job. Advocating for employees during this critical time also gives your company a unique opportunity to build loyalty and foster mutual respect.
So what can you do to ease your new-parent employees back to work? There are many no-cost and low-cost ways to help support new parents, whether they've just had a baby, adopted, or are fostering.
Challenges new parents returning from leave face at work
The arrival of a new family member is a magical time, but it can also profoundly impact a new parent's physical, emotional, and mental health.
Studies show that sleep duration and satisfaction vastly decline when parenthood begins, and most parents (76% of both mothers and fathers) report frequent sleep problems. Sleep deprivation is an enormous challenge for new parents and their employers, as lacking high-quality sleep will affect an employee's health, well-being, and work performance. Sleep-deprived employees are more likely to make errors at work, be less productive, and feel more sensitive or emotional.
Concerns around job security
Many new parents will need to modify their work responsibilities and commitments to balance employment and parenting. They may need to work remotely or part-time, reduce their workload, or request more days off than usual. As they return from parental leave, they may find their role has changed, feel like they’re falling behind, or like they’re replaced. These adjustments can cause anxiety around job security and the potential for promotions or career growth.
Childcare costs and financial concerns
A child can also significantly alter a person's financial position, especially with increasing costs for basic necessities and rising inflation. Working parents may need to pay for childcare, which can put immense strain on a family's finances. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, families with infants can expect to pay a shocking amount to cover the true cost of childcare: almost $16,000 per year on average, or about $1,300 per month. Not only is this nearly 21% of the U.S. median income for a family of three, but it also comes at a time when money is tighter than ever.
Perinatal mental health issues
Some new parents experience mental health issues postpartum—such as stress, anxiety, and postpartum depression—which may require professional help and medication. Research found that about one in three parents experience perinatal mental health issues, and postpartum depression can impact new fathers, too.
How can your organization support new parents?
Because paid parental leave benefits are not mandated in the U.S., many new parents may not know what resources are available to them. Employers can set up holistic and transparent benefits to make returning to work easier on employees.
Flexible work hours
The pandemic has illustrated how important flexible work hours are for everyone, but especially for parents. Consider creating flexible work situations for new parents, such as part-time or remote arrangements, and set clear expectations around hours spent in the office. New parents will undoubtedly encounter unpredictable events that demand flexibility, such as doctor's appointments, sicknesses, fatigue, and more, so it's essential to keep the lines of communication open and be understanding of their hectic schedules.
In-office resources and benefits
Several in-office benefits can make the transition to work easier on employees, including a private room dedicated to breastfeeding parents. Since mothers in the U.S. typically return to work after three months, companies should consider proactive steps to ensure new mothers have the space, time, and respect they need to pump.
Breastmilk shipping services, like Maven Milk, help new parents easily ship milk back home to their baby when traveling for work. A growing number of organizations are also providing nurseries and cribs and allowing parents to bring their new babies to the office, which helps cut down on childcare costs and retain employees who are new parents. On-site daycares are also hugely beneficial for new parents, as it makes child care and drop-offs easier.
Well-being and self-care programs
Mental health is critical for new parents in the postpartum period. Employers should support requests for well-being programs for new parents that support their mental and physical health. This can involve providing gym memberships or exercise classes to help employees get back in physical shape or holistic programs that offer meditation or nutritional guidance. Companies can also offer access to talk therapy and emotional support groups that give relationship advice and new parent resources.
New parents face a completely different financial future when they have a child: college savings plans, retirement, life insurance, and more. As parents return to work, they'll want to understand their employer's benefits to help plan for an entirely new financial situation, like employer 401(k) matching. It's also common for companies to match an employee's contribution to long-term savings accounts up to a specific amount or percentage of their wage.
Employers may also consider providing childcare subsidies, which can help new parents save money on daycare while increasing their job satisfaction and engagement. Employees who aren't stressed from frequent kid interruptions are more productive and loyal, and companies can receive tax credits by providing subsidies to employees.
Family planning benefits
After returning to work, employees with families are likely re-examining their employers' benefits programs to help them plan for their future. Some employees may be looking to expand their family further and, therefore, consider things like egg-freezing, fertility treatments, and more. In fact, in the U.S., approximately 6 million women are impacted by secondary infertility, meaning they struggle to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after a successful pregnancy.
Supporting your employees means enabling their path to parenthood, whatever stage they're in or shape it takes. Employers can help in this area by offering family planning and fertility benefits, such as financial support for costly treatments such as IVF, egg freezing, and gestational surrogacy. Providing these benefits is an essential aspect to creating an inclusive workplace, too—many LGBTQIA+ or single employees rely on fertility treatments to accomplish their family building goals. According to research, more than 60% of LGBTQIA+ people planning families expect to use assisted reproductive technology and other alternative means of becoming parents, making supporting every path to parenthood a crucial aspect of your DE&I goals.
Maven can help support your employees returning to work
Maven is the world’s largest virtual clinic for women’s and family health, designed to help your team balance their work and family life. When it comes to supporting your employees, offering parental leave is only the beginning, which is why our programs for new parents’ physical and emotional health help families around the world thrive.
Maven is the only global family benefit that integrates care advocacy and navigation, telehealth access to specialty care like parenting coaches and mental health specialists, clinically-vetted content, breast milk shipping, and more.
Taking care of the new parents in your organization is a rewarding experience that does right by both your employees and your business. Schedule a demo with our team to see how Maven supports working families, retains talent, and reduces costs.
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