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Hybrid work is the best thing to happen to parents in the workplace since parental leave

“I believe I can do it all – but I can’t do it all at once," writes Heather Combs, chief commercial officer of Fairfax-based 3Pillar Global. Here's why she thinks hybrid work matters for equality, hiring and families.

At work. Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

This guest post is a part of How We Work Now Month of's 2021 editorial calendar.

This is a guest post by Heather Combs, chief commercial officer of 3Pillar Global.
As an executive raising five daughters, I know from personal experience that we need a workplace culture that supports working parents holistically, through a variety of practices and policies.

Paid parental leave (including for parents who have adopted or used a surrogate) is just one of them.

The U.S. still has a long way to go toward supporting working parents. While the Family and Medical Leave Act (which requires mid-size and large companies to offer new mothers 12 weeks of unpaid leave) was passed in 1993, the majority of U.S. workers at small companies have no legal right to paid or unpaid leave after childbirth or adoption. Disappointingly, only 40% of U.S. companies offer paid parental leave for both parents — and it was only last year that the government implemented paid paternity leave for federal employees.

Hybrid work isn’t going away, and that’s a good thing

I’m fortunate to work for a company that not only offers paid leave for all new parents, but also – yes, really – takes away their company email access during that time, to ensure that they’re able to fully focus on their family. This type of policy doesn’t just mean permission to disconnect. It’s also a much-needed lesson for new parents in letting go and slowing down.

Our company has also gone fully hybrid – putting no requirements on when employees need to be in the office. This solidified “work from anywhere” approach means employees come into the office as needed – for meetings, hosting clients or collaborative projects – but are not required to be at their desks from 9-to-5. In fact, we’ve eliminated assigned desks altogether. Instead, our office has become a type of coworking space, with meeting rooms and collaboration hubs to use as-needed.

Heather Combs. (Courtesy photo)

Hybrid is the future of work. The Wall Street Journal notes that “the old maxims of office face time no longer apply. To show off your talent and skills in person, it is better for employees to coordinate office appearances with their teams for optimal collaboration.”

Hybrid schedules also offer parents the added flexibility to schedule their day so that they can work part of the day at the office, take a few hours to take care of children, and then work the remainder from home. There is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach required.

This doesn’t mean employees ending up working less, or have permission to miss meetings – it just means they complete their work on the schedule that works best for their family. I often tell people who ask how I juggle work and home, “I believe I can do it all – but I can’t do it all at once.”

Hybrid work can have a powerful impact on workplace equality

While I’m a huge advocate of working dads who also step up at home, the reality is that policies like hybrid workplaces will open the door for many more moms to pursue their career goals. A March 2021 U.S. Census Bureau population survey found that 80% of Americans workers who left the workforce since the Covid-19 pandemic began were women. Perhaps unsurprisingly, of men in the top 1% of earners, 70% have a stay-at-home spouse — but only 22% of top-earning women have the same. Hybrid workplaces and work flexibility can be one solution to achieving more gender parity in senior leadership.

Hybrid work offers companies the broadest and the best pool of workers

A hybrid office also serves as a powerful incentive that companies can offer parents who don’t want to lose the flexibility they gained during the pandemic. Since implementing our hybrid policy, we have seen a big influx in the number of applicants who are also parents. Companies with policies that support working parents can hire from the broadest and the best pool of workers.

Families also stand to benefit from hybrid work

It is not just companies that stand to benefit. Kids also benefit from parents with more workplace flexibility. Repeated research has shown that babies benefit from the bond created by having a stay-at-home parent. Another study that looked at the educational performance of 68,000 children found an increase in school performance in the kids of stay-at-home parents all the way to high school-aged children.

As a working mom, this is a hard pill for me to swallow, as I’m sure it is for other parents who have to or choose to work. Rising costs of living have made it impossible for many families to rely on one income. But hybrid work cultures open the door for parents to spend more meaningful time with their kids and work. So, for example, a mom of a baby can work during nap times or evenings, freeing up time to bond with her baby during waking hours. And a working dad can be at those midweek soccer games to cheer on his star player.

I may be past the baby stage, but I am deep in the mess of middle and high school activities. In fact, I am writing this tonight between completing a parent-teen drivers’ education class and preparing for a presentation tomorrow. I can do it all, I just can’t do it all at once. Luckily, I can transition back and forth in my hybrid life.

Companies: 3Pillar Global
Series: How We Work Now Month 2021

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