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How we kickstarted a network to help parents in construction find work-life balance

04 June 2024

Founders Ania Gonzalez and Ba Dan Nguyen wanted to raise awareness of challenges faced by working parents in the industry.

How we kickstarted a network to help parents in construction find work-life balance
Building the PiC network at Tideway required some planning, but our efforts were always rewarded. Image credit: Ania Gonzalez

When we first started our respective families, five years ago, finding work-life balance proved very challenging.

It was a bumpy journey, during which we even considered quitting the industry.

But we succeeded in creating a work environment where we felt fulfilled professionally without jeopardising family life.

Based on what we’d learned, we decided to establish the Parents in Construction (PiC) network at Tideway to raise awareness and support parents who may be going through similar challenges.

How the PiC network helps

The main goal of the PiC network is to create an open and supportive environment for everyone who works with or manages parents, including people who don't have children.

It seeks to raise awareness of issues faced by parents and improve overall wellbeing, providing a space to share ideas and personal empowering lessons.

It also facilitates access to company and government policies that have great tools already available to help improve work-life balance.

It’s equally important for the PiC network to involve non-parents in the discussion in order to break taboos and look for better solutions together.

Tips to create your own network

While building the PiC network at Tideway required some planning, our efforts were always rewarded by the positive feedback and support from the senior leadership team.

Below are a few ideas for those who would like to start similar groups in their own organisations:

We started the network with a survey to see if there was any interest in the project at all. It also helped to better define the purpose of the network.

  • When organising sessions, we chose times and locations that suited as many people as possible. Snacks and nibbles are good incentives!
  • We made it clear in the invitation that the event wasn’t just for parents, and we invited everyone who works with parents. It was about sharing different perspectives and finding solutions together.
  • We tried to get the senior leadership team within the organisation to join for support and to take up the ideas that were born in the discussion.
  • The main purpose of the sessions was to give everyone a voice. We did this by working within smaller groups or having open debates guided by questions.
  • At the end of the session, we tried to ask for feedback to improve the events and build the next session around the most challenging issues.
  • After the session, we communicated the outcome to everyone with the actions and the next steps.

Why the network is needed

We need to find better work-life balance solutions not just because it’s the right thing to do.

But because a happy and relaxed parent is a productive and committed employee.

They’re likely to stay in the company for longer, bringing more profit and benefit to the business.

Normalising flexibility in the working culture of the industry and introducing equal leave for both parents will also help to attract more women into construction and close the gender gap sooner.

Flexibility is key

These family benefits can help attract more talent because they demonstrate your company’s values, as our effective working flexibility survey at Tideway reflected.

The survey, which had over 130 participants, revealed that generally people enjoy a positive work-life balance at Tideway.

Respondents suggested that flexible working patterns could be trialled more in construction sites and that work-life balance should be a key performance indicator (KPI) in major projects to help ensure employee wellbeing.

Some flexible initiatives include introducing late starts on Mondays and early finishes on Fridays. This can increase productivity as a result of employees engaging and recognising it as a family-friendly benefit.

Construction company Liang O’Rourke has already introduced an equal six months’ maternity and paternity leave, and many dads working on Tideway used that fantastic opportunity.

Their teams have woven their absence into the succession plan and allowed for the growth and development of others.

We made it clear that the network wasn’t just for parents. Image credit: Ania Gonzalez
We made it clear that the network wasn’t just for parents. Image credit: Ania Gonzalez

The industry can’t afford to lose talent

There's a concern about the associated cost of these flexible working patterns and family-friendly benefits.

But research conducted by management consultancy McKinsey shows that these also drive the business’ profitability due to talent retention and better employee engagement, morale, and productivity.

One of the construction industry’s greatest challenges is lack of talent – recruitment is tough, less young people are joining the industry and there’s a struggle to get more women working in construction.

And yet people consider quitting the industry because they find construction and parenthood are incompatible.

The industry can’t afford this loss.

It must adapt and take action to ensure it will grow, thrive and be competitive with other industries.

What the network has been up to

Over the last two years, the PiC network has held sessions on different Tideway sites, involving over a hundred employees.

Feedback from the sessions has been extremely positive, and the network has been named the Best Health and Wellbeing Initiative of the Year 2023 as part of the Tideway RightWAY Awards.

Our next event will be with the ICE, where we’ll talk about extending the life of the PiC network beyond the Tideway project and continue holding important discussions with the wider construction industry.

Watch this space!

  • Ania Gonzalez, design assurance engineer and senior project manager at Jacobs and Tideway
  • Ba Dan Nguyen, head of operations at Bachy Soletanche