This fall will be a trial by fire for working parents, as they attempt to juggle remote work with the demands of home schooling and childcare. Unfortunately, many of them won’t be able to keep up. In Sequoia’s recent Working Parent Strategies Survey, 49 percent of the HR professionals surveyed said employees with kids had asked for a reduction in hours, 21 percent have had employees take a leave of absence, and another 10 percent saw employees leave their job to take care of a child.
In an effort to support companies, here’s a look at our findings surrounding the biggest challenges working parents are facing this fall and the solutions companies are using to address them and support their employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
Online school and sheltering in place have made childcare the overriding need for most working moms and dads, according to the family benefits platform, Cleo, with only 28 percent of the parents it surveyed in June having someone else to take care of their child/children.
“We spent two months with no nanny, no preschool, and both parents working full time,” recalls a surveyed Cleo member. “I would take the kids in the morning…and my husband would take the afternoon…and we would both work after they went to bed.”
Women are being affected disproportionally, with more female workers planning on scaling back or leaving work to handle family demands in the pandemic.
- Offering monthly stipends and referrals for childcare and learning pods.
- Green lighting flexible work hours for all employees, including weekends.
- Implementing job sharing for those who must reduce their work hours.
- Allowing workers to relocate to be near relatives who can help.
- Offering paid and unpaid leaves of absence for team members.
- Giving team members the choice of when they return to the office.
Problem: Sharing a workspace with kids.
Of course, childcare is only one piece of the puzzle. Parents in many parts of the U.S. will be tasked with helping their kids manage the unique demands of online school; including helping them troubleshoot virtual instruction, show up to their laptop for each class period, and remain engaged in an environment where distractions are high.
Parents will need help creating an environment where both they and their kids can focus and remain productive.
- Setting up Employee Resource Groups and Slack channels where working parents can find support, share strategies, and pinpoint needs for discussion with management.
- Offering stipends for online tutoring services, so parents aren’t the only ones answering questions on schoolwork when kids get stuck.
- Allocating money to invest in improving employees’ home office and other needs such as better Wi-Fi connection or noise cancelling headphones.
- Training managers to better understand the challenges of working parents to avoid bias.
- Providing parent education programs and hosting social time that’s family friendly.
- Paying for age-appropriate virtual activities to keep younger children entertained.
- Blocking out meeting-free times at certain points in the day or week so parents can assist kids or avoid discussions at noisy points in their kids’ schedules.
Problem: Parent burnout
The stress of balancing a job with round-the-clock parenting, coupled with other issues including the pandemic and social injustice, has been weighing heavily on employees’ mental health. CEOs and managers are now tasked with guiding personal conversations they have never had to deal with before.
Parents need additional physical and emotional health and wellbeing support, and more clearly defined boundaries, to get through this difficult time.
- Establishing a mental health day or days each month where all employees are off, even if physical travel isn’t possible.
- Defining clear goals and set routines, including a defined start and stop to the workday and no emails late at night.
- Creating more opportunities for independent decision-making so people feel more in control.
- Providing funds for meal delivery so employees have to cook fewer nights.
- Subsidizing virtual health and fitness or meditation programs to relieve stress.
- Sharing resources on mental health issues such as those at Ginger or Spring Health to show support and reduce stigma.
- Offering on-demand video therapy sessions and text-based behavioral support to help team members better deal with the challenges.
- Ramping up employee assistance programs.
The most critical element to overcoming these challenges will be communication, because the reality is, that while working parents may be most impacted by the pandemic, everyone on the team will see their work situation and workload change in this new reality.
Do you have additional suggestions for how employers can help working caregivers? Leave them in the comments in HRX.
Kaleana Quibell – Kaleana is the Wellbeing Director for Sequoia, helping advise clients on strategies to support employees’ Physical, Emotional, and Financial wellbeing. In her free time, Kaleana enjoys yoga, the outdoors, and spending time with her family and puppy.