How CEOs Can Help Working Parents
I recently participated in a podcast on WorkLife HUB, an international broadcast focusing on the work/life arena. Our discussion focused on the challenges facing working parents who have children with autism, ADD, learning disabilities and mental health needs and the impact of these exceptional caregiving responsibilities both at work and at home.
One of the topics discussed was the obstacles facing employees when it comes to disclosing to their leaders, managers and colleagues that they have a child or teen with special needs. We touched on the fact that this is no longer a “mommy” issue, and that parents who are top performers are leaving the workforce because the struggle and juggle are simply too great.
ONE PIECE OF ADVICE
Asked at the end of the podcast what one piece of advice I would like to share with CEOs, it was this...that while CEOs may not see something, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Employees, particularly working parents and especially those whose children have ongoing needs, tend not to discuss their personal lives at work and certainly not these complex needs. Yet these issues are impacting the workplace from retention to employee health and beyond and are costing companies money. CEOs need to know about these very real needs because they're precisely the individuals who can bring about organizational change.
DISCUSSION STARTS EVERYTHING
Ask any working parent, whether a CEO or junior accountant, about raising a child with Asperger's Syndrome, ADD, depression, or similar diagnoses and they'll tell you that they need 12 more hours in a day and another set of hands at a minimum. By encouraging discussion of these needs, companies can begin to offer supports and services that will help to end the "smoke and mirrors" game that growing numbers of employees are playing every day. CEOs have the ability to ease this pain.
With Microsoft, whose CEO has two children with special needs, recently announcing that they're actively recruiting employees with autism, the shift is underway. Companies are recognizing that a diagnosis doesn't mean unemployable and that many with autism and other unique needs can be valuable and valued employees. But for these young adults to reach this level of life success, companies need to recognize and support the working parents who are raising them. And this starts with the support of the people at the top.
To listen to the podcast referenced above, please click HERE.
-Debra I. Schafer
Executive Advisor, Special Education