At Iron Galaxy, we understand that compassion is always important, but even more so in these challenging times. We foster a culture where people can come together and help each other find the sweet spot in the new overlap between work and life. We care about each other and that only magnifies during the hard times.
If you were to ask caregivers, 2020 was a year fraught with examples of having to make “the best worst decisions” - and frankly, that’s probably true for anyone you would ask. Suddenly, major parts of the workforce were working from home or on the frontline and struggling to find childcare. Kids were no longer in school. Often, the usual family support for parents became complicated by COVID protocols and concerns around the health conditions of the aging population. This pressure led to a spike in women leaving the workforce voluntarily, with the labor force shedding 2.2 million women between October 2019 and October 2020.
At Iron Galaxy, we see our employees as whole people. We’re committed to high retention as a result of cultivating a great work experience. Early in the stay-at-home times, before any of these sobering statistics came to light, we identified Parents and Caregivers as people who might need a little more support. We instructed managers to be sensitive, not only to the needs of the Parents and Caregivers, but to all members of our staff. Everyone was and continues to face new challenges together.
We already had a “Parent Central” text chat where parents and caregivers asked for advice and shared their ideas and frustrations. Topics like allowance practices, IAP rules, Child Settings for online entertainment services, food sensitivities, and potty training have been shared. It’s been a setting for parents to support each other. There was even an exploration of a suspected ghost sighting that turned out to be an excited child discovering the SOS mode of a flashlight.
To build on that supportive resource, I decided to start a recurring video meeting for Caregivers to come together virtually. Each month, about 10-12 of our parent and caregivers meet. After playing around with timing, I found that offering both a lunchtime and an afternoon meeting option was best. It helps serve the needs of the parents as well as keep the groups relatively small. Smaller groups lend themselves to easier facilitation of meaningful conversation.
Parents report appreciating the meetups as places to receive some much-needed empathy. It feels good to know that they are not the only ones with these challenges. Parents also like feeling like they are helping each other through situations similar to those they experienced in their past. Having parents of children with ages ranging from infants to adults allows a wide variety of caregiving knowledge. I love how open people are with issues and concerns. We’ve discussed everything from poop to puberty. I love that no topic is too embarrassing nor taboo. People are comfortable admitting they aren’t perfect, and their children aren’t perfect.
At Iron Galaxy, many of our parents share similar concerns during this time. There is stress around balancing e-learning and jobs and a sadness regarding the isolation our children have faced. In many cases, we are our children’s sole social interaction. The emotions of everyone in the house is amplified through our children and our best and worst emerges as we continue to hunker down a year into the pandemic.
Parents are making hard calls like blurring the lines between school and regular life by accepting that all are happening in the same home environment. Parents are struggling deciding between e-learning and in-person schooling options…or they are given no choices and disappointed. Parents are grappling with the stringency of COVID protocols and protecting their children’s health while weighing their children’s emotional and social development needs.
Despite all the stress and downsides, the Pandemic has led to some silver linings for our Iron Galaxy Parents. They have shared the sentiment that they feel supported by their company. They appreciate the level of compassion and flexibility exhibited by their leads. Sharing our day-to-day via video conferences has also made us more sympathetic to the imperfections of our lives. No one gets upset if a baby cries in the background of a call, a dog walks through the scene, children try out some bunny ears on their parent, or that someone might have piles of kids’ laundry on their sofa.
Parents are also delighted with our robust healthcare options and knowing a family health emergency won’t leave them in debt. Most also report loving the eight weeks of paid recovery and four weeks of paid bonding leave that we offer. Before the Pandemic, we threw at least two-family friendly events each year to celebrate our employees and their families. Since we are currently unable to do this in person, we’ve replaced these celebrations with care packages and contests. Parents appreciate that we are thinking about the experience for all our employees, whatever their family situation.
Another unintended effect of the Pandemic that parents are reporting to me is more equity in their home lives. In many cases for our employees, two partners are now home to share in more of the household and child-rearing activities. Tasks that would have fallen to one partner are getting redistributed. Many of our dads love the extra time they are getting with their children and the valuable insight they are getting into their education and lives.
With women choosing to leave the workforce because they don’t have other options, I’m happy that we’ve retained our moms. It's been inspiring to hear traditional gender roles in the home are breaking down.