As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, working parents have been forced to contend with their children’s changing school routines. Unfortunately, these routines vary by school, with little universal guidance. On top of that, many schools continue to go back and forth between virtual and in-person learning. The uncertainty surrounding school routines and their impact on working parents will undoubtedly continue to have ripple effects in the workplace.
Survey of Working Parents
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many working parents struggled to balance work and home life. The pandemic has made those tough situations even tougher. A study of working parents across the United States and five European countries revealed just how tough pulling double duty is during the pandemic:
- Approximately 60% of working parents have no outside help in caring for and educating their children.
- Parents now spend an additional 27 hours each week on household chores, child care and education on top of their pre-pandemic household responsibility. That’s nearly the equivalent of working a second job.
- About 50% of working parents feel their work performance has decreased as a result of managing additional responsibilities.
Accommodation Considerations for Employers
Although the specifics will vary, consider the following methods for accommodating working parents:
- Expanded remote work opportunities—Telework allows employees to work entirely remotely. It can be a way for working parents to get kids to school without having to worry about an additional commute. It also allows parents more time to spend with their young children or kids who must be at home due to virtual learning.
- Flexible scheduling—Employers set designated “core” hours that an employee must be working and otherwise let employees work whenever they like. Alternatively, an employer may instead allow employees to work any combination of days or hours to complete the 40-hour workweek.
- Generous time off policies—Some employers have generous policies related to paid time off (PTO). Consider implementing a PTO bank policy where employees can use their time off for any reason (as opposed to having sick days and vacation days).
- Robust EAP offerings—Employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be tailored to a workforce to provide employee resources. Offerings may include mental health resources, therapist appointments, financial counseling and other well-being programs. EAPs can help connect employees with the resources they need to improve a given situation, even if it’s their overall well-being. For working parents, this could be the lifeline they’ve been searching for.
- Transparent and frequent communication—Depending on the team size, managers could have open discussions with working parents about needing to take time off or flexing their schedules. Such conversations show employees that their well-being is just as important as their performance.
The absence of workplace guidance related to working parents’ circumstances may force some employees to resign or take extended leaves to accommodate their families. Plan for these situations now, and prevent turmoil later.
Information abstracted from Zywave’s “HR Edge – Q1 2021” article. This HR Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice.