Hakuhodo Mama Univ. is a project for Hakuhodo employees taking childcare leave to support their return to work at the end of their leave.
In our previous report, we discussed a seminar designed to help participants think about their anxieties and worries about the search for childcare (“hokatsu”) and other issues they face before they go back to work. This time, we discuss our Thinking About the Work-Parenting Balance as a Couple Workshop, held on March 17, 2019.
What “balance” looks like varies widely from family to family, and evolves continuously even in the same family. The purpose of the workshop was to have couples learn processes for thinking about balancing work and parenting so that they can come up with a balance to suit their particular family circumstances whenever they need to. We therefore invited not only the employee taking childcare leave, but their spouse as well.
To allow the couples to concentrate on the workshop, a childcare space was set up in the next room. It was the first time for many participants to use a childcare service, and it seems actually trying it out opened up many couple’s eyes to the fact that they had not had a chance to talk as a couple since their child was born, and that childcare services are one option they could use after returning to work.
We first gave workshop participants time to think about the kind of family they wanted. Both parents thought about and shared their ideal lifestyle in 6–12 months’ time. It was a topic that the parents had not really talked about at length, and it seems to have been a good chance for them to touch base with each other.
Next, participants began the process of charting the division of housework and childrearing tasks using our specially developed tool. The tool is made up of cards with a housework or childrearing task on them and a board for assigning who will do each task and when. The point of this activity was not to compare the number of tasks each parent does. Once the tasks were organized, the parents talked to each other about the tasks they do now that they don’t actually enjoy doing, and why and what about them they don’t like.
Using hints provided by facilitators, the couples considered what to do about these jobs. They considered such things as whether it was really necessary to do the task and whether it could be delegated to someone else (another family member, a paid service, technology, etc.), all hints that came out of the experience of the team that organized the workshop. More experienced parent-employees who had successfully balanced family and work were on hand to give advice at each table. By thinking together about how to deal with tasks each of them didn’t enjoy instead of just splitting them up evenly, the parents seemed to be able to divide the jobs up more positively.
The workshop concluded with the couples thinking more concretely about their lives after the parent taking childcare leave returns to work.
Feedback from participants included comments like: “I’m glad we took time to really think things through as a couple,” and “We were able to think about the work-family balance in a game-like way, and find concrete solutions to tasks that we don’t enjoy.”
Hakuhodo and Hakuhodo DY Media Partners will continue efforts to help employees find a comfortable balance between housework and childcare and work, leading to better performance in all.