Adjusting for the new school year
As we approach the end of summer, the usual excited anticipation of the new school year is quickly being replaced by feelings of anxiety and concern as many working parents are receiving news of what the new school year may hold for them. The reality is clear that the adjusted school experience and contingent plans in place will not remove the pressures that working parents have been experiencing these past few months of lockdown – juggling the roles of an employee and temporary teacher/daycare provider. Even when schools reopen, they will have multi-level contingent plans in place ready to pivot when there is a suspected COVID-19 related illness that will need to be met with the strict protocols and possibly another closure.
With the uncertainty that surrounds the reopening of schools and its ability to stay open, working parents with childcare responsibilities will not be able to return to providing the 9 to 5 availability that they used to prior to the pandemic. Here are a few ways that employers can support employees as they continue to juggle responsibilities as an employee and a childcare provider/teacher.
3 Key Reminders
- Be flexible and understanding of the reality of the childcare situation – Although parenting is not new, balancing work duties and keeping children occupied while homeschooling is a role that many parents are unfamiliar with. Many working parents have adjusted these past few months, with varying levels of success, with the thought that this is temporary. Now that schools have announced their adjusted school plans, employers and working parents alike will need to view this as a medium to long term change. In addition, even if parents decide to send their children back to school, the childcare provided with the adjusted schedules will still disrupt a normal return to work. Employers should continue to be flexible with their employees and encourage managers to have an open dialogue with employees. It is also important to have this come from the top because not all managers view flexibility positively.
- Review benefit plans to include childcare assistance – The struggle for parents to balance careers and caregiving was an issue even before the pandemic where parents struggled to find quality, affordable childcare providers that offered flexible schedules. Even for the best employees, trying to juggle childcare and work duties can result in a lag in productivity on the job. Consider a review of your benefits plans to add or enhance childcare assistance benefits. The onus cannot fall on employees alone. Employers are well-positioned to help parents tackle childcare challenges. As the landscape shifts to more work-from-home situations, enhancing family-friendly benefits can also help differentiate employers in this kind of environment and help with recruiting.
- Foster Positive Coping – As our new normal continues, the coronavirus crisis will continue to take a toll on the mental health of all workers, including working parents. What they thought was temporary is now turning into a medium to long term situation, and working parents will need support more than ever to help balance their careers and their newfound role of babysitter and teacher.
Authored by Julie Johnson, Burnham Benefits
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