HR Management & Compliance

How Workplaces Can Support Working Parents (And All Workers) During the School Year

With school and many childcare facilities back in session, the months during the school year are extremely challenging for working parents, who are trying to balance ever-changing family schedules and professional responsibilities. The result is often increased multitasking and/or employees putting in long and late nights trying to catch up on assignments.

Here are some best practices workplaces can follow to ease the challenges workers face during the school year.

Deliver adequate training and awareness to all managers and leaders around how to talk to employees about their specific work/life needs.

There’s often a gap and learning curve for managers who haven’t gone through the childcare resource juggling act firsthand to really understand how complex it might be for someone in a caregiving position to navigate increased scheduling challenges of the school year. By educating leaders on how to address the compounded work/life demands of this time (and beyond), employers can better support their employees. Employers can also ensure parents don’t feel guilt around having to have this delicate conversation with their employer. To do so, this conversation should be led by being proactive—listening to the needs of all employees and creating policies so people don’t have to ask.

Provide flexibility in scheduling.

This could include allowing employees to adjust meeting times or block off their calendars for things like childcare pickups or drop-offs, etc. Flexibility is critical for all employees regardless of whether they’re parents. Many companies are encouraging the corporate best practice of avoiding meetings before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m.

Ensure company policies around flexibility are inclusive of all employees.

Flex Fridays, when team members are given extra time off (a full day or a few hours of the day) on Fridays, are a very popular program throughout the country. This perk can be hugely beneficial to working parents juggling various school schedules but just as valuable for other workers who want to travel on the weekend or meet personal obligations. Parents appreciate and need the help but are frequently tired of being isolated from their peer group in seeking accommodations. With a corporatewide policy that doesn’t just single out parents, all employees will be supported in spending their time doing something meaningful to them.

The one constant in the world of work over the last few years has been change. Rather than keeping stagnant policies that may no longer work for a majority of your employee population, organizations should be proactive. This could be on a quarterly or an annual basis, paying attention to the discussions and requests of various employee resource groups or any other subsets and adapting policies to be responsive to the current needs of all employees.

Kaleana Quibell is the VP of well-being and platform partners at Sequoia (on Twitter @sequoiaTPI) and helps clients and employees come through for the various needs of their people. She has more than 10 years of experience in the total rewards sector, with a background in recruiting and onboarding, benefits and HR, and employee well-being program design.

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