COVID-19 has strongly disrupted the paradigm of everyday business, leading to sudden changes in business practice. Remote work, virtual teamwork, empathetic leadership, but also social exclusion and loneliness, rising unemployment and inequality are just some of the consequences. Due to growing financial insecurity and the increased burden of caring for children, this pandemic also poses an acute threat to the well-being of families and children. In such circumstances, achieving a work-life balance becomes an increasing challenge, especially for working mothers.
Last week, research on family-adapted business was presented at the Parent in the Spotlight conference organized by UNICEF, which did a cross-case analysis of the attitudes of children and youth about the impact of their parents’ workplace with family-adapted business practices in the Serbian business sector.
The survey called “The Impact of Parental Workplace on Children and Youth”, in which 1,279 children and young people from all over Serbia participated, was administered through the UNICEF U-Report platform, which represents the voice of young people and promotes their participation in creating positive social change. The survey questions focused on children’s attitudes about the parental balance between work and family, their expectations of the parental workplace in terms of family practices of employers, as well as the measures implemented to protect employees and their families during COVID-19. The purpose of the survey was to gather information on how the parental workplace affects children and young people and what companies in Serbia can do to be more focused on the needs of their employees’ children.
Most young respondents have confirmed that they do joint activities with their parents during the workweek. Nevertheless, almost half of children and young people single out important events where they lacked parental attention, and these are mostly emotional problems, school and sports competitions. In addition, research has shown that children have primacy in the lives of their parents, who mostly find time for children, but not for themselves, which indicates that they fail to establish a work-life balance.
Representatives of the corporate sector such as Nelt, Direct Media, Vip mobile and Nordeus discussed why this is so and whether companies take care of the children of employees in their organizational policies and procedures, at the panel called “Family-friendly workplace”. On that occasion, several examples of good practice were presented.
“At Vip, it is important for us to develop a partnership with employees. Just as our employees care about the company’s results, so do we as a company and employer care about them, their health and their families. Among other benefits, we have a children nursery in our office building, parents have additional days off for dates that are important to their children such as starting nursery or school, etc., all with the aim of establishing an adequate work-life balance,“ said Natalija Pešić, Head of Human Resources at Vip Mobile.
At Nordeus, employees cam comment on specific challenges during the pandemic, so that the company could better respond to their needs.
“We observe the satisfaction of the employee as a whole because we know how difficult it is today to achieve a work-life balance. Caring for our employees means caring for all their family members, especially children. Thus, Nordeus is a company where the family comes first – our working hours are flexible, especially during the pandemic, our employees have unlimited time to rest, we provide remote work for everyone, private health insurance covers all family members, our space is adapted to children and we like to include our families in creating almost all beautiful memories together,” said Marija Beslać from Nordeus.
The survey “Family-friendly workplace”, conducted by UNICEF among employers, involved 64 companies. According to this research, employers showed a strong responsibility towards employees, while measures related to the protection of their families, and especially children, were significantly less represented. The surveyed employers are also fully aware of their employees’ young family members and claim to be open to the needs of parents in the workplace, but only as long as it does not jeopardize the business. They also understand the challenges of having a work-life balance, especially for working mothers, but in practice, do not encourage fathers to take parental leave.
Ana Vidović, a human resources associate at Nelt, states that “one of the reasons for such research results is that employers still thing that family and work should be viewed separately. In this regard, the fact that employees, who have achieved an appropriate work-life balance are more productive and satisfied is overlooked. These results are also affected by the poor awareness of what employers can do to help employees achieve and maintain that balance. ”
Given that family-friendly business practices are mostly implemented voluntarily, companies point out that the state should provide certain incentives for their more massive application, as well as to publicly recognize employers with such developed practices.
Ivana Mihajlović, HR Director in the Direct Media Group, points out that the practices and opportunities that companies can introduce through their activities are not visible enough. “The initiative is also on us, and our task is to educate each other about the changes in the established patterns of parenthood. We have prejudices about what the roles of father and mother are. That is why we need to educate ourselves and see what are the mechanisms by which we can change these patterns of behaviour and expectations. Our company is committed to conducting education that helps better mutual understanding and equality. ”
Children growing up and parenthood don’t wait for ideal conditions, and child development cannot be delayed. That is why it is important to direct all efforts towards parents and give them the necessary support, the participants of the Parent in the Spotlight conference concluded.