Supporting working parents to manage their energy
As the energy of summer wanes and we gear up for a busy autumn term and period of work to Christmas, how can organisations help working parents resource themselves through this time? How can we support working parents to manage their energy?
Ways To Support Working Parents to Manage Their Energy
Here are some different ways to think about energy, tailored specifically for those managing people with children. Consider these six areas as you support, coach and empower the working parents in your team to find what works best for them.
1. Focus the energy
Parents are often in helping, fixing, supporting, doing mode. They get very good at it with their children, and therefore it’s easy for them to become known and valued at work as someone who is efficient and gets things done. This can become a problem when the helping and fixing no longer serves the individual or those they are helping. Talk to them about where they want to focus and invest their time and energy this autumn, and then help them keep those boundaries by offering clear feedback delivered with kindness, and support to be more boundaried.
2. Explore creative possibilities
A good personal wellbeing approach will cover the basics of sleep, food, exercise and rest as a way of being resourced. For parents, committing to these things consistently can be a challenge, and because everyone is individual there’s not a template to follow. If a team member is struggling in any of these areas, provide space to check in with how they are doing and offer them support to explore creative options for making changes in the context of their home set up and the flexibility your business offers. When you’re busy managing the detail of life as a parent it’s hard to think creatively, so it’s helpful to be encouraged and supported to look up from the day-to-day to get new ideas and see what’s possible.
3. Respond to change
Things are constantly changing – we’re all getting older (sorry to remind you!), the kids are growing up, what’s important to people changes especially when they become parents, your work culture may have evolved post pandemic, and the world is changing. When we don’t move with and respond to change, we can get stuck in patterns of behaviour that drain our energy. It can feel like we’re pushing against a brick wall. Where might a colleague who’s a working parent need to update their thinking or actions around change to free up some energy, and who could best support them? This is true of teams and organisations too, so the same reflections apply.
4. Cultivate new energy
Working parents can easily slip into a default mode of always on where it’s easy to get exhausted and weary, especially if the energy of constant doing is the same at work and home. How can you help working parents who are low on energy to slow down, pause and tap into new energy this autumn? There is a sliding scale on slowing down and pausing. Pauses can be bigger ones like holidays, sabbaticals and away days, and micro ones like taking a breath together at the start of a meeting, listening more than speaking and scheduling in short breaks (oh hail the 50 minute Zoom call!) to avoid back to back meetings.
5. Connect to termly cycles
Parents operate on termly cycles and plan their lives around these. Businesses are more likely to operate on quarterly or other financially driven cycles. Is there opportunity in your business or team to bring these cycles closer together to align the energy and availability of parents during term time with your organisational/ departmental/ team activity? It’s better to work with the energy people have than against it. Open this up to conversation especially around goal or target setting, both personal and collective, to see if you can intentionally design the work (or elements of it) this autumn to meet the needs of the business and the needs of working parents, to help manage the energy.
6. Practice shifting energy
It’s said ‘a change is as good as a rest’. This tends to be true of holidays with young children. It’s the same stuff, just in a different location, but it (mostly) feels refreshing. In the world of work, what can be done to help parents shift their energy or get a new perspective? One solution is to get outside in nature and move. Walking, running, cycling and swimming have many benefits including helping with new ways of thinking. Encourage your team members (even those without children) if they’ve got something to think through to take it on a walk, run, cycle, swim, paddleboard and see what happens. Have some of your 1-1 or team meetings outside walking, either in person or on the phone. Even stepping outside the office and taking a deep breath can help people shift their energy.
What are your top tips for helping working parents manage their energy?
By Georgina Gray
Georgina is the founder of Walk with Me. She helps working mothers thrive, lead and parent their way through coaching, and she supports organisations to have cultures that empower mothers and unlock growth through women. Her creative approach combines the benefits of walking and being in nature with the power of coaching. It’s a fresh and adventurous approach to change.