Best practices in the field of human resources and treatment of employees implemented at DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions were presented at Parents in Focus, a conference hosted by UNICEF Serbia. First up was the Family Friendly certification last year DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions became the first Family Friendly agency thanks to introducing measures to help balance employees’ personal and professional lives followed by the People First title, awarded by Heartcount, an international organization that surveys employee happiness in the workplace.
Parents in Focus aims to call attention to the importance of encouraging parenting and support to parents of young children, seeing as supporting parents most directly translates to supporting children. The conference was opened by UNICEF Serbia Representative Dejana Kostadinova, Serbian Minister for Health Dr. Zlatibor Lončar, and the LEGO Foundation’s Chief Impact Officer Sarah Bouchie. The conference speakers included experts and representatives of universities, parents’ associations, and companies.
“Every day, parents are shaping children’s experiences and creating opportunities for their health, learning, protection, growth, well-being, and development. First and foremost, we take care of our children’s health, we are committed to providing them with appropriate nutrition and safe and secure surroundings. All of these are important, but not sufficient. The vital factors contributing to children’s brain development are love, care, attention, listening, and interacting with the child in short, responsive caregiving,” Kostadinova noted in her opening address.
“The good news is that any parent can learn responsive caregiving, which is among the key messages to keep in mind that I’d like you to take away from the conference. When it comes to strong partnerships, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Minister for Health for being with us today and supporting our programs intended for parents. By establishing partnerships between different sectors, we can achieve desired change in the life of every child in Serbia,” said UNICEF Serbia Representative Dejana Kostadinova.
The Business Tailored to Family and Children panel centered on what family-friendly jobs should look like. A UNICEF study has shown an obvious gap between children’s expectations of their parents’ workplaces and family-friendly practices offered by employers to their employees. The participants discussed the reasons for the discrepancy in the expectations and the actual situation, about what the government can do to turn best practices into the gold standard given their proven benefits, about paternity leave for baby care in Serbia which is fairly rare and how businesses can steamroll this practice forward. The discussions also touched on the reasons behind so very few employers demonstrating responsibility towards employees’ families and children during the state of emergency and whether the COVID-19 epidemic would expedite the introduction of family-friendly practices in the workplace or contribute to changing their paradigm.
The panel was moderated by UNICEF Consultant Prof. Dr. Nataša Krstić, while other participants included VIP Mobile HR Manager Natalija Pešić, DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions HR Director Ivana Mihajlović, Nordeus Communications and CSR Manager Marija Beslać, and Nelt HR Business Partner Ana Vidović.
Moderator: UNICEF Consultant Prof. Dr. Nataša Krstić:
– Two surveys were conducted after the state of emergnecy was lifted. One focused on children and young people and involved around 1,900 of them with a view to learning how children perceive their parents’ workplaces at home and in the family environment. The second survey titled Family-Friendly Workplace looked into the corporate sector and involved 64 companies.
– The first survey’s results show that more than half of children notice that parents/guardians stay at work for more than eight hours, and an even higher percentage of them stated that parents/guardians often talk about work on the weekends or on vacation. Only 15% of parents avoid talking about work in front of their children. The survey revealed that 1/5 of parents have little or no time for their children, while 64% of children have regular activities with their parents and 1/3 rarely do.
– The results of the survey intended for employers indicate that employers are open to parents’ needs in the workplace, but frequent sick leave due to child care does present a challenge, seeing as they have to adjust business in line with their needs. Employers agree that balancing between work and family is harder for women, as well as employees in higher roles and in those in bigger cities. Furthermore, employers reported that never encounter instances of paternity leave.
Nelt HR Business Partner Ana Vidović:
– Some of the reasons for such survey results include the still widespread opinion among employers that family and work should be viewed separately. On a related note, the fact is overlooked that employees who are happy with their work–life balance are more productive and satisfied. In addition, these results are affected by an underdeveloped awareness of what employers can do to help employees achieve and maintain balance. Some employers fear that focusing on employees’ needs will make them lose sight of their productivity. This is where I see some of the reasons why family-friendly practices are not customary or implemented much. I think we should start with small, simple things, meaning that when an employee takes a vacation, they can fully focus on their family.
VIP Mobile HR Manager Natalija Pešić:
– We need to apply a holistic approach it’s important to treat a person as a complete being. The concept of employee management has changed. It is important that as a company we demonstrate partnership just as we expect employees to take care of the company’s results, so employees have the right to expect that we take care of them and their health. We as a company are very open to having children and our building includes a kindergarten. We think it is important that they have a positive attitude towards their parents’ work.
Nordeus Internal Communications Manager Marija Beslać:
– Nordeus maintains a communication channel with parents, and during the pandemic we ran a survey to understand their specific challenges. Both before and during the pandemic, we offered flexible options for parents. Dads get a week off work when they have a baby. However, we also offer unlimited leave for employees during the year, so fathers opt for an additional two or three weeks. Flexible working hours were possible even before the pandemic, and especially amidst it. They just needed to mark child care in the calendar and we would respect that.
DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions HR Director Ivana Mihajlović:
– Practices and opportunities that we can introduce by action are not visible enough. I am afraid that if we wait on the government to act, we will be waiting too long. The initiative is on us as well, and our goal is to educate each other about pattern changes. For example, we have prejudices about the roles of fathers and mothers. That is why we need to educate ourselves and identify mechanisms that can help us change these patterns. As a company, we are committed to education that helps better mutual understanding.
The closing speech and conclusions at the conference were given by UNICEF Serbia Early Childhood Development Specialist Jelena Zajeganović–Jakovljević:
– It’s time to place parents in focus. Parenthood should not be taken for granted instead, we should be aware of its important role. Every day, parents are shaping children’s experiences and creating opportunities for their health, learning, protection, growth, well-being, and development in turn, shaping the development of society as a whole. Parenting and growing children do not wait for ideal circumstances, and children’s development cannot be postponed. That is why it is important to focus all our efforts towards parents and support them.
The video of the online conference is on the UNICEF Serbia YouTube channel.