It can be more than challenging trying to balance childcare, COVID-19 prevention (hey, Delta), and work. It's hard enough not worrying about whether your kid's school will cancel in-person classes or shut down altogether while facing the not-so-usual growing pains of children and teens who are forced to live in whatever phase of a pandemic we're in right now. (I mean, is it really post-pandemic? Is it halfway done or just beginning? And what's "normal" about this "new" environment?)
Moms, we feel your pain.
There are many things the pandemic has revealed. Quality of life and finding balance in managing home and work are super-important, and now, more than ever, parents want to be able to have the flexibility to put family first.
In fact, a FlexJobs survey found that 61% want to continue to work remotely full-time and 62% even said that they would quit their job if they can't.
Some parents who are being asked to return back to the office are having difficulty finding childcare, and with concerns about future COVID-19-related complications, some just don't want to take the risk of being in an office, even with the vaccination options in place.
If you have children, we're sure you want a work situation that is parent-friendly. Well, here are a few red flags you can look out for when looking for new opportunities (or weighing the pros and cons of your current gig):
1. Only the bare minimum of paid time off (PTO) is offered.
You might think that getting just two weeks of vacation and less than 12 sick or personal days a year is industry standard, but you might also be selling yourself and your family short by accepting this as a norm. Considering the challenges of COVID-19 and the constant changes in policies, legislation, and school closures, having the flexibility to take off without having to worry about losing money is a top priority for parents.
Companies that offer more PTO time or flexible policies on using it often have positive outcomes related to retention and worker satisfaction, and that means you, as the employee, should be at least asking for more or looking elsewhere if your current company is not budging. Competitive companies consider the health and welfare of their workers to be an important asset to productivity, and while you're not going to be able to excessively call out of work, you should still be able to lean on flexible policies.
With more employers adjusting policies to accommodate unlimited sick leave, unlimited vacation, and options to take a few hours off for an appointment (versus requiring taking a full day), please do side-eye the ones that are still stuck in the pre-pandemic limbo of being stingy with PTO.
2. Care-giving support? What's that?
More companies are now offering expanded childcare benefits such as stipends, discounts via childcare partners, or even on-site daycare resources, thus, this is a competitive and realistic benefit to look out for. If a company you're interviewing with (or you currently work for) has not even a semblance of understanding of this concept, it might be a good idea to pause talks of moving forward. This is yet another benefit that often leads to retention, and top Fortune 500 companies offer childcare assistance, so it's not an unreasonable option for parents to expect or ask for.
3. Remote or hybrid work schedules are not allowed.
For some jobs, it's totally understandable that working from home is simply impossible. But for others, working in an office full-time is slowly becoming obsolete.
If managers at your current job (or prospective employer) are strictly against allowing remote work (with little to no evidence that doing so would negatively impact productivity), again, explore other options.
You might be among the parents who would rather continue homeschooling your children, who isn't too comfortable yet with school policies related to COVID-19, or who enjoys the extra time a lack of commute has given you. Being able to work remote, at least some of the time, is one perk you'll want to look out for if you're a parent who falls into those categories.
4. Maternity leave is very limited or non-existent.
There was once a time when professionals had to use disability leave or lose pay altogether just to take off while pregnant or after having a baby. (And some companies probably still force employees' hands with this one). But if a company doesn't offer maternity leave in today's day and age, there's a problem.
If you get just one golden nugget from this article, it should be that reputable companies that are successful and competitive put their workers' needs at the forefront. If they want to keep great talent, they ensure that that talent is healthy and happy. More than half of top employers in the U.S. actually offer maternity leave and the number continues to grow.
Being pregnant and having to finesse time off or thug your way through being sick, tired, and on the verge of hospitalization just to keep your job is just not the move.
5. There's a workaholic culture.
Some companies offer all the benefits in the world, but this means nothing if there's an undertone of workaholic expectations lurking in the shadows. Let's say you ask during the interview, "What are the confirmed work hours of this position?" and the manager gives you a vague answer like, "However long it takes to get the job done." Major red flag, sis.
Or maybe pre-pandemic, you had time to make dinner and actually sit with your kids to eat it, but now you're ordering more DoorDash and taking calls and emails into the late-night hours. Yep, red flag.
What about the manager that gives an end-of-day directive at 5:50 p.m., dumps a two-week deadline on you for a project that should take months to complete, or constantly calls you while on vacation? The lack of boundaries might prove to become toxic for working parents. Be sure to ask questions during interviews or reevaluate whether you want to continue working for an employer thinks you're a robot.
6. There's a clear disregard for the value of family and parenting.
From snide jokes to outright questioning your ability to manage being a mom and doing your job, these are signs that a prospective employer (or your current one) is not a good fit. If you're being made to feel guilty about making time to pick your child up from sports practice or using PTO to stay at home with your baby, or you're constantly being compared to employees who don't have children, it's inappropriate and toxic. A balanced work environment accommodates all employees and embraces a diverse workforce, therefore, and if the managers of a company aren't ensuring this, it's time to chuck the deuces.
If you're on the job hunt, check LinkedIn or the company's website to find clues about the culture or values related to family and parenting.
(Some managers might list parenting organizations they support or include their children and spouses in their bios, for example.) Pay close attention to what is said during your interview process, and infuse small details about being a parent to get responses that might allude to potential issues. Insert something like, "My daughter just finished pre-school..." and see what the interviewer says. If it's anything close to distrust or outright disrespect, go ahead and scratch that company off your list.
With all that's going on the world, it's a good idea to think of what's really important for you and your family. Go for the opportunities that not only allow you to flourish but support the chance to be the best parent you can be. Let these red flags be the wake-up call you need to pursue what you and your children deserve.
For more job search tips, career advice and profiles, check out the xoNecole Workin Girl section here.
Featured image by Getty Images