"Children around the world need support from their parents right now… and parents need support from their employers” - COVID 19 Statement From UNICEF
A holistic consideration of wellbeing that integrates the wider connections and
responsibilities of working parents may not feel like a priority. In this piece, I’m going to explain why supporting corporate parents through a family wellness lens can demonstrate perfectly how purpose can translate to profit.
Several companies have commendably expanded their vision to offer support for parents, to include flexible parental leave, maternity coaching, retention schemes and childcare support. These are all sensible moves to support parents and boost talent retention. However, this is the tip if the iceberg, and when it comes to wellness, there are deeper dynamics at play which go beyond these practical and physical structures that can support working parents and their families.
There is an urgent need to gain clarity on the complexity of our reality, especially in view of the pressure placed on working parents through the pandemic. The Co-Space study by the University of Oxford reveals that the pandemic has led to increased rates of anxiety and depression in parents.  Happy workers are 13% more productive  so already there is a business case to think about wellness for working parents. But we know that even before the pandemic, half of parents felt work-life balance was a source of stress, and a staggering 11 million working parents in the UK regularly feel guilty about their ability to provide their best at work and for their family .
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted
female employees due to the disparity on wider caring and household responsibilities. A study found that working mothers were 28% more likely to experience job burnout while working from home. We are seeing the first female recession in decades due to an exodus of working women. This is not good news for companies. Workforce diversity is paramount for the richness of perspectives and skill set it brings to any organisation. Retention of women in the workforce is demonstrated by PWC where £1.1 billion is gained by recognising and rewarding women on returning to work.
There is an urgent requirement for innovative ideas and solutions to think about these deeper issues facing working parents such as parent guilt, and examine how companies can empathise with these needs in a way that serves all stakeholders. Corporate purpose is about looking at a business holistically, and thinking with an aspirational hat on: Why does society need this company? Purpose begs a perspective to incorporate morality, justice and sustainability. Without purpose, there is no corporate longevity.
I am Dr Gauri Seth, Conscious Connection Coach. I am a mother of three, medical doctor with experience in psychiatry and psychotherapy, and an internationally cited academic. I am also the founder of the Brain-Based Connection programme designed specifically to help parents boost emotional connection with their children using sciencebacked insights.
I will demonstrate that a holistic consideration of individual wellbeing must include the wider well-being of any person’s social world. Enhanced family wellness through a
stronger parent-child connection will boost workforce productivity, focus, performance, as well as support talent retention and diversity in a workforce through supporting the retention of women.
Considering parents’ wellness from the lens of their social connections, particularly connections with their children whom they are responsible for, will revolutionise workplace culture for several reasons. Firstly, family dynamics are smoother with stronger connection at home. Conscious Connection is the WD40 to family life: Dynamics are smoother, less noisy, with less resistance and generally less screechy. This will enable a parent to show up at their workplace less emotionally drained, enabling greater focus, productivity and even innovation of thought.
Connected parenting means children are emotionally more attuned to their parents. All this means that when their parents aren’t with them, and when they are at work, they know they are loved. They feel less rejected, because their connection is stronger. A study by Stewart Friedman looked at 900 business professionals, exploring the relationship between work and family life. Children were more likely to show behavioural problems if their parents were overly involved psychologically in their careers, whether or not they worked long hours. There were more problems with children when there was greater cognitive interference of work on family and relaxation time —i.e. psychological availability, or presence. This study highlights there is a hidden variable at play- I would conclude this variable to be conscious connection.
Through mindful conscious connection when parents are with their children, they are less likely to feel guilty at work, because their emotional connection tank has been filled up. Guilt free work will boost focus and productivity, which is the second reason they can offer an even better performance at work.
Thirdly, and moving now into corporate purpose, connected parenting is mental health prevention in action. Dr Van de Kolk, a psychiatrist who specialises in trauma, famously attributes the parent child-connection as the “most powerful mental health intervention known to mankind”. This is no small statement. As a doctor who has worked with adults in mental health settings and has seen the sharp end of psychological distress, my views resonate entirely, with the potential preventative impact a strong parent-child connection can have for lifelong emotional wellness. Providing employees with support directed at boosting their connection with their children, not only supports employee
wellness but also is supporting the next generation with their wellbeing too. This aligns with a strong sense of social purpose, and with mental health high up on the agenda due to the pandemic, this is a strong factor for consideration.
If that isn’t enough, the parenting period has transgenerational impact, as how we parent is subconsciously influenced by how we were parented. Similarly, if parents respect and nurture emotional attunement with their children, their own children will parent with this wired into their subconscious, thus potentially supporting positive connection and emotional wellness for generations to come.
Furthermore, connected parenting is the first step for parents to be heard by their children. If there is mutual respect, attunement and connection, it’s much more likely children will engage in more complex deeper conversations, about discrimination, inclusivity, accepting and celebrating diversity, and cultivating a psychology that does not align with unconscious racial bias or discrimination of any kind.
Yes, your corporation can leverage their working parents and see the platinum
opportunity radiating hope for a better world, where they can support society to address some of the most pressing problems facing humanity right now- while boosting wellness and productivity all at the same time. The parent-child connection really is powerful- it has transgenerational impact, for transgenerational wellness, and your company could grow through this powerful channel.
Working parents’ wellbeing must be considered from the holistic perspective to include their connections. Supporting employees with connection with their families, something so incredibly valuable to them, would mean that they would in return want to offer the same value back to their employer, through the law of reciprocity and gratitudefacilitating a great workplace culture.
What if organisations, employers and companies paused and thought more widely and more deeply about how to bring the best out of their working parents? What if employers stopped to actively empathise with their working parents, not only to support their wellbeing, not only to support the next generations’ wellbeing, but also to bring an even more productive innovative and energised dimension to their colleague’s work productivity? Through taking a moment and thinking with clarity, I believe we can combine the innate drive for profit, with corporate purpose, by seeing working parents as a vehicle for a wider deeper social mission- mental health prevention for the next generation.
There is no better time than now, to zoom out, take a pause, and pivot. Let’s think connection. Let think more widely about mental health. Let’s think in a transgenerational way where mental health is respected as a sustainable treasure. Let’s connect family wellbeing to productivity and purpose because it has always been relevant- we just didn’t respect it before. Mental health matters for economic productivity- let’s not be short sighted in our concept of productivity. The proverb “I am because we are” begs a wider definition of wellbeing that goes beyond the individual. It’s time to start thinking about our collective wellness.
We need to bring relevant science to parents to support the parent-child connection for sustainable mental health. We can turn to relevant components of cognitive behavioural psychology, family systems theory, emotional intelligence and more, to supports parents embed emotional wellness into day to day life. Parents also can gain peace of mind in ensuring that their childcare network is empowered to meet the emotional needs of their children when they are not there. The results directly lead to less parent guilt, better focus productivity and performance due to all the benefits of a stronger parent-child connection.
Parenting is sensitive. No one wants to be told there is a problem with their style or connection. We need to be non-judgemental because parenting is tough and by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I strongly believe that knowledge is power- and for the sake of multigenerational impact, we need to channel relevant science to parents to support their knowledge on how psychological health develops, and how they can support their children.
It is time to respect mental wellness for the treasure that it is, and protect mental
wellbeing by approaching it through the lens of sustainability. Sustainable mental health means respecting the parenting period for long-term wellbeing in the next generations.
Are you a CEO or leader wanting to join the revolution of enhancing productivity through the human lens of connection? Do you want to see a new dimension of emotional wellness in your colleagues and employees, that comes from a luxury place of enhanced connection, integration and holistic wellbeing? Do you want to support the social cause of mental wellbeing for our children today, and also for generations to come? Are you ready to join me in calling all parents to arms, to not only boost connection with their children, support their own wellness but also help eliminate unconscious racial bias and discrimination, through fostering a life-long psychology of inclusion, empathy, curiosity and connection? Join me in what needs to be a big moment in history. It’s time to think of mental wellness through sustainability, and the opportunity is right there in front of you - let’s support parents.