The arrival of COVID-19 has changed the way companies support working parents.
A couple of years ago, working from home would have been the dream, but that was when kids spent most of their time in physical classrooms or in daycare.
Now, despite the rollout of vaccines, the pandemic still making an impact. In fact, 66% of employees are working from home, often while their children are in remote classes. Schools are not going back in person at the same rate or pace as companies are. The return to so-called normalcy will introduce a host of new complications.
Supporting working parents is critical for employee engagement, efficiency, and loyalty. Not to mention, it’s just the right thing to do.
Here are some steps that employers can take to help working parents during these stressful times.
1. Make it Easy to Ask for Help
The best thing that a company can do to support working parents as we transition back to in-person and hybrid work environments is to make easy to ask for help from managers, co-workers, and teammates.
Employees need to know that it’s safe to ask for help while they are at work. To encourage this communication, HR and management should have an open-door policy. Employees should be able to email, call, or visit in-person and explain the struggles they are facing. They should expect HR to respond with solutions. It’s vital to show empathy and support during this difficult time. Make sure employees know that there is someone they can talk to about these new challenges.
If employees are intimidated by reaching out, HR and management can always set up surveys to gain feedback about how they can better help employees with their remote or office needs.
Offering a knowledge collaboration tool like Givitas allows employees to network with one another to answer work questions efficiently.
Making it easy to ask for help will benefit all employees, not just working parents.
2. Tailor Support to Individual Needs
It is important to remember that not all working parents deal with the same struggles and that some may need additional help. Parents who have children with learning disabilities may need alternative solutions or more time away from work. Single parents may also need additional support from their HR department.
Companies that value their employees will offer suggestions and alternative arrangements to help these employees. In return, those appreciative parents will be able to give 110% once we return to normal working conditions.
3. Offer Flexible Schedules to Support Working Parents
One of the most common alternative arrangements that employers can implement is a flexible schedule for those that need it.
A flexible schedule can come in many forms. It may involve allowing an employee to begin their schedule a few hours later than usual so that they can help their children with online learning. It could also be giving them Wednesdays off, so that they can bring their children to appointments and make up some of the time during the weekend.
Whatever you do, you must make the possibility of a flexible schedule completely inclusive to all employees—not just the parents. Other staff members may be caring for an elderly parent or the children of a family member, and you want to make sure they are included as well.
By allowing these opportunities, you are promoting a work/life balance that allows your staff to manage work and family in order to become more well-rounded employees. By demanding too much of your workforce during these difficult times, you are creating a stressful work environment, and that stress could manifest itself in the form of lowered work performance.
With vaccines and lowered restrictions, some companies are beginning to ask employees to return to the physical offices to continue their work. For some working parents, this may not be the best option, as they still have children learning from home. If you can allow these employees to continue working remotely until their situation improves, consider doing so; the parent will certainly appreciate the help.
4. Thoughtfully Consider Employee Benefits
Companies can also promote new and existing benefits that can help alleviate some of the burdens on working parents. One good way to do this is to implement an education assistance program, which is typically used to help employees with tuition expenses if they choose to return to school and earn a degree. If your company already has such a program, consider adding in scholarship grants for the children of employees or a stipend to help pay for an in-home tutor.
While it may sting to lose them at first, HR teams should remind employees of the option to take an extended leave from work if their situation at home becomes too hard to control. This could include allowing them to use accrued sick or vacation time or creating a new form of COVID-19-related sick leave if they or a loved one comes down with the virus. When accompanied by a doctor’s note, these approved absences should not be held against them.
Companies may also want to consider offering mental health benefits such as virtual therapy (via telehealth) or reimbursement for face-to-face counseling sessions. Employees could be anonymous when utilizing these sources, and it would give them someone to talk to whenever they need support that the company can’t provide. Mental health benefits should be offered to all employees, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and moving forward.
To network with HR leaders facing the same challenges you are, join our free Givitas for HR Leaders Network.
Working parents may seem like they can do it all, but they need support from time to time. A company that provides the help they sorely need will create a stronger, more reliable, and truly appreciative workforce.