Earlier this week, I participated in a podcast on WorkLife HUB, an international broadcast focusing on the work/life arena. Our discussion revolved around working parents who have children with autism, ADD, learning disabilities and mental health needs and how employees are struggling with these exceptional caregiving responsibilities both at work and at home.
We discussed a number of topics, including the obstacles facing employees in terms of disclosing to their managers and colleagues that they have a child or teen with special needs. We touched on the fact that this is now an issue impacting mothers and fathers alike vs. being a “mommy” issue, and that parents are leaving the workforce because the demands – e.g. time, resources -- are simply too great.
One Piece Of Advice To CEOs
At the end of the podcast, I was asked what one piece of advice I would like to share with CEOs. It was this -- that while CEOs may not see something, it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. What I meant by this was that employees, particularly working parents and especially those whose children have ongoing and complex needs, tend not to discuss their lives and their daily juggling. These issues are hidden from the people who need to know about it the most, because they're the ones who can bring about the organizational change and acceptance needed.
It’s Time To Normalize
Ask any working parent raising a child with autism, depression, or any number of diagnoses and they'll tell you that they could use 12 more hours in a day and another set of hands at a minimum. Yet until we "normalize" these issues and recognize that these unseen needs are often more intense and demanding than those we can readily see or discuss, these employees will continue to play - and live - a "smoke and mirrors" existence. CEOs need to know so they can lead the changes needed.
With Microsoft just announcing that they are actively recruiting employees with autism, the shift is underway. Companies are recognizing that a diagnosis does not mean unemployable and that many with autism and other unique needs can be valuable and valued employees. Now companies need to know that it's today's working parents who are raising these children and they need support themselves. And this starts with the support of the people at the top.
To listen to the podcast mentioned in this blog post, please click HERE.
-Debra I. Schafer