It takes a village to raise a child, goes an old proverb. Alas, the village has been caught up in the throes of a deadly virus for 20 months and counting. In India, as you look around it seems life is back to an almost normal – corporate brunches & team bonding over a round of drinks is back. But, ask the parent of a 12 month old - they have been driving backwards through an endless dark tunnel too long. Working parents have juggled well through this period with organizations & teams supporting flexible work environments, which have allowed them to prioritize, and balance as they deem fit. Wish they were handing out awards for achieving Balance!! As human beings do, they have become comfortable in the NEW NORMAL. They have found a way that works. The ability to switch the video off and mute yourself on video conferences is underappreciated – it does belong in the Marvel Superheroes network.
Planning for the transition
As organizations look to resume physical offices – all for the right reasons - and encourage individuals to come back (they were always mentally there), this NEW NORMAL will be disrupted again – hopefully the proposed disruption will be smoother and not overnight. It will allow for periods of transition versus the Covid induced sudden lockdown in 2020 – thoughtful steps versus spontaneous reactions to an external environment.
While the new India does have both parents stepping up to the responsibility of parenthood, primary caregivers continue to be women and mothers. Childcare and Eldercare are cited as prominent reasons why women drop out at certain stages of their lives and then getting back is a separate battle. The journey of getting more and more women back to the workforce supported well by the Maternity Bill Amendment 2017 will resume. However, a law can only go so far. The spirit of the law will have to pervade deeper to ensure that the goal of allowing mothers to have the choice to balance their aspirations with their role exists. Else, we will continue to miss a huge part of our potential talent pool.
Hybrid and flexible working models
The new working model is hybrid and hence any support to young parents has to reflect the same dynamic. The extra helping hand whether at office in terms of access to a childcare centre or a dedicated caregiver at home will need to be flexible to adjust to the requirements of the role, parent and the child.
Meaning of Hybrid & Flexibility in the office environment will continue to evolve. In parallel, our commitment to Diversity and Early Childhood Care shall need to strengthen further. Corporates who truly value their employees and want to retain their talent pool will also go beyond the call of the land. They are committing to a blend of onsite, nearsite, offsite, at home options they can offer to their employees. The day of a metaverse option for childcare though seems a little distant. Since corporate childcare does wrap around the work environment, a new set of options and solutions will emerge. Early versions of these mean 3 days at a childcare centre with 3 days of care at home. Ability to access the network of centres versus only one close to the office. The guiding spirit has to be facilitating parents in a way that they can be productive while working from home or office and a combination of home-office. Any distraction on count of sub optimal care for their little ones only plays on their mind and a distracted mind cannot contribute fully.
Policies only work when the culture and teams allow you to implement them. Hence encouraging team leaders to allow for flexibility wherever doubts exist, internal communities on parenting that allow for exchange of ideas and queries, sharing success and failure stories of colleagues on the subject can go a long way in promoting a healthy culture of inclusion for parents of young children. Such non-monetary actions sometimes can create far wider impact and reflect positively on the organizations culture.
With the war for talent at a new peak in India, progressive and thoughtful childcare policies can go a long way in facilitating human beings to continue to add value to the community while their children are well taken care of. A happy child means a happy set of parents means a happy world. Voila !!!