A summary by Women’s Agenda of the Inaugural Work&Care Summit (October 2022) speaking to the opportunities businesses have to support greater work life wellbeing.
ING has seen the number of men taking paid parental leave increase threefold since becoming the first bank to remove ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ labels from their paid parental leave policy back in 2019.
Impressively, a strong portion of men taking that leave are also taking a full three month block.
The majority of ING’s workforce is also currently “Flex-ING”, meaning they are benefiting from a policy of flexible work that is team dependent, with general rules that can be applied depending on the needs of the team and the type of work being done.
Last month, ING CEO Melanie Evans addressed the Work&Care Summit, hosted by Family Friendly Workplaces (FFW), to discuss the changes implemented and how the business is rethinking care.
She joined Mercer CEO David Bryant on the panel, alongside APAC Director at HSM Advisory, Alison Hernandez, for a session moderated by FFW founder Emma Walsh.
Evans told the Summit the bank had significantly overhauled how they think about care because it’s the right thing to do to support team members. But, she added, there are also plenty of business reasons behind making such decisions and investments, particularly on gender-neutral paid parental leave.
“We know that people who are well both in and outside of work are more likely to show up to work and give us more energy, more effort and to show more care for their teammates whether they’re leaders or not,” she said.
Evans added that so often we think about caring responsibilities when it comes to being “family friendly”, but it’s also about considering the things that “bring people joy”.
“I think it’s time to move the conversation even further along and say “actually this is about making things better”. This is about giving time and space for things that will make a difference for people.”
Alison Hernandez told the panel how as a leader, she has always felt a “responsibility to give people back to their families at the end of the day, in good shape”, and felt her own responsibility to also return to her family in such a way.
She said the future of work simply has to be “family friendly” and noted the challenge – and responsibility – employers have in supporting team members, especially given most of us are expecting to be working longer than those generations before us.
Hernandez reflected on Linda Gratton’s book, The 100 Year Life in making her point, which highlights how we will be thinking very differently about our careers in the years to come. While people will be wanting and needing to work longer and later in life, they will also be looking to think about the lifecycle of their careers differently: noting the different stages they will need to be caregivers, and the different points they will be balancing work and different forms of care.
“As employers, we need to think very carefully about how we’re designing for that multi-stage life where we have employees with really diverse caregiving responsibilities,” Hernandez said.
“It goes beyond parents, grandparents, siblings, partners, children with elder care responsibilities and that can only be achieved successfully if we have employers supporting greater work life wellbeing,”
At ING, Melanie Evans reflected back on her own experiences starting at the bank while heavily pregnant, and recalled meeting a man in her team who was at a similar point with his family – about to welcome in a new child. However, he was expected to take a very different approach to parental leave. Together, they reflected on how a traditional way of thinking would see them experiencing very different outcomes.
“We had the same outlook,” Mel said. “We had the same love and care for our children and family, but this policy was getting in the way. So, after returning from delivering my second child, I set out to get rid of labels. So we threw out primary carer, secondary carer, paternity, maternity leave, and we just said if you’re a parent, you’re a parent– organise your time and your family and caring responsibilities as you see fit.”
Evans added that while they can look to the stats to see how their wellbeing and leave policies are supporting staff retention, she sees other evidence that counts for much more.
“I can rattle off many more statistics, but it’s the emails I get with the photos of people enjoying time with their family that actually make you very aware of the impact that you have on the lived experience [of team members that then] changes culture, when those men and women get to leadership positions. They will pay it forward.”
David Bryant from Mercer discussed the need to address all forms of care – especially given the aging workforce, as well as the fact careers are expected to be longer in the years to come.
He cited Mercer’s own research which recently found that 90 per cent of the 400 employers surveyed were not offering any additional “care” assistance to employees outside of the standard parental leave policies. Most organisations have no provisions for caregiving more generally for elder family members, or family members with a disability.
Bryant said this is particularly problematic for what Mercer research identifies as the “sandwich generation” – those who aren’t just trying to raise young children, but are progressively also managing care responsibilities for older parents and other family members.
“The gap in the market when it comes to caregiver benefits is actually quite enormous. There’s a huge opportunity here for employees to better connect with their people and have a proposition that others don’t,” Bryant said.
Bryant also spoke about the care that needs to come from employers in supporting team members to avoid and manage burnout – with burnout levels rising significantly globally over the past year, according to the Mercer Talent Trends Report.
The report found that that 81 per cent of employees are feeling burnt out – up by 30 per cent on the previous survey.
“There is a much more significant impact on women,” he said. “It is getting attention, about half of companies are beginning to think about how they can change their policies [to help]. But you have got to ask the real question when it comes to supporting people: which is, what would actually make a difference for you? How do we make this [work] better for you to fit into your life? Not the other way around.”
Hernandez added to Bryant’s point, saying that leaders need to “get better at listening.”
“Start with gaining a really deep understanding of what our employees do need and stop making assumptions. There’s certainly not a one size fits all.’
Further, she said employers should better equip their team members who find themselves caught in “work life overwhelm”.
“We’re asking leaders to be technical experts, functional experts, drive productivity, increase profitability, learn new technology, be inclusive, be encouraged, be authentic, manage hybrid teams… It’s completely exhausting,” she said.
“We know that the experience of our leaders will significantly impact the experience of our people and so at the end of the day, every moment matters and every conversation they have counts when it comes to supporting their team members with work and family needs.”
Article first published by Women’s Agenda