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By Anja van den Berg

According to the Mbalo Brief by Stats SA, most South African children are raised in single-parent families.

Unfortunately, many companies in corporate South Africa don’t recognise the realities that solo parents face. Managers who don’t understand (or empathise) often make demands that single, working parents can’t meet. Work starts taking a toll on their emotional and physical wellbeing, hurts their careers, and eventually leads to burnout.

To address solo-parent burnout, here are a few things that companies can prioritise:

  • Help with childcare

The International Labour Organisation says that working parents have difficulty accessing childcare that is affordable, convenient in terms of opening hours and location, and of sufficient quality so that they are assured the child is well looked after.  Some companies opt for on-site crèches and childcare facilities, after-school care centres or holiday clubs on the parents’ work premises. Other employers link with facilities in the community and negotiate a discount for employees or provide support to improve the quality of the childcare in the community. Covid-19 has shown the world that childcare is not optional, and business has a vital role in developing supportive workplace policies and practices.

  • Create opportunities for boundaries, taking breaks, and resting

Instead of taking up a hobby or being mindful, research shows that single parents simply worked more, putting them on a collision course for burnout. Organisations can reinforce annual leave and family responsibility policies to address this concern, ensuring employees have time away from work. Employers can also adhere to guidelines that allow employees to disconnect and step away from work in all shapes and forms for certain parts of the day and over weekends. Managers can also demonstrate how they take care of themselves by taking lunch breaks, going for walks, or spending time with family – and telling the rest of the team that they won’t be available during those times.

  • Don’t make assumptions – ask!

Asking about the opportunities single parents want in their role or career could lead to more honest conversations, says Marika Lindholm, founder of ESME, an online community for solo mothers. Managers shouldn’t assume single parents don’t want stretch assignments or travel just because they’re single parents. Ask them directly. Create opportunities for single parents to share their challenges and for their managers to talk openly about solutions that could help them.

Companies need to acknowledge that single parents exist and that excluding solo parents means that the business will inevitably exclude well-qualified performers. Don’t assume that all parents come in pairs. When organisations presume all employees have a support system in place, they make demands that pull single parents in all directions. Juggling the responsibilities at home and with their children while attending to work commitments will eventually take a toll on their emotional and physical well-being.



iol: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_protect/—protrav/—travail/documents/event/wcms_145935.pdf

Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2021/06/how-companies-can-support-single-parents

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