Are we missing opportunities to support empty-nesters?


With universities at long last offering in-person learning once again, and record university applications following two disrupted years, more Brits than ever have become empty-nesters.

These parents, who generally make up an experienced part of the workforce, are struck by a mix of emotions and changing domestic priorities that can impact their career ambitions and performance at work.

How can organisations support empty-nester parents transition and channel newfound ambitions and search for fulfilment into meaningful career moves?  

More on parents and the workplace:

Parental support must extend past parental leave

Parents struggling with unsupportive work cultures

Do we care enough about carers?

After years as a parent, one’s personal identity, and even life purpose, often becomes closely tied to raising children.

And once that job is complete, parents can feel a significant void. For those parents in the workforce, many start to question why and what they are working for. Deep down we all long for meaningful work and this fact will often become more recognisable to empty-nesters.

Time for evaluation

The empty-nest crossroads prompts consideration for some time off in order to re-valuate career ambitions and goals. This could be especially relevant for an employee facing a season when money might be less of a motivator than when the household was full.

Some time off, even if only for a few weeks, can provide perspective to assess these motivating factors. While most organisations do not have formal sabbatical policies, policies for taking unpaid leave are more common.

Encouraging an empty-nester to take a break can buy valuable loyalty and improve their wellbeing; it can also prevent them from leaving the business altogether.

A focus on core values

Empty-nester employees increasingly seek work consistent with their core values. With potentially fewer commitments on the home front, as long as employees are engaged in work they find meaningful and fulfilling, employers will benefit from a renewed sense of vigour and more time spent at work. Engaging these workers with corporate values and initiatives can help them feel they can make a bigger impact.  

Coaching to guide the way

A company-provided coach can play a valuable role and may be the most practical and cost-effective way for HR departments to support empty-nesters and other employees to navigate significant life events.

Initially, an employee can benefit from the confidentially of a coaching relationship, which will allow them to talk about their emotional response to the change.

With open and honest communication, a coach can help employees explore options such as making the most of time off, undertaking a passion project or developing a personal growth plan. A coaching relationship is also an effective forum to help an employee uncover core values and to consider how well their current professional path is aligned with those values.

An empty-nester who is clear about his or her core values and is committed to living them out will find the empty nest transition much easier to navigate, for what is sure to be a significant and emotional stage in life.

By Christopher Saye, financial advisor, coach and author of Fly: An Empty Nester’s Quest for the Holy Grail of Life, Love and Longevity