How to Support Working Parents During Back-to-School Season

In a normal school year, working parents have to manage through vacations and breaks, sick days, and school hours that don’t match up with traditional work hours. It certainly can put a strain on their mental and physical health and even impact their performance, at times.

In this past year, though, during the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges have escalated dramatically. Not only have these parents been expected to continue to meet productivity goals at work, but some have had to homeschool children, while others have had to help their children navigate a year filled with shutdowns and uncertainty.

It’s a lot to deal with. As a result, as a new school year arrives, you might be wondering how to support your employees who are working parents. First – and most importantly –keep in mind that they are human and have undergone an enormous amount of strain in the past year and a half. They deserve to be treated with patience and grace.

In addition, consider implementing the following tips to ensure they have the support they need in the weeks and months ahead:

Offer flexibility.

As an employer, you want to keep hard-working and talented employees. One of the best ways to retain working parents is to offer flexibility with scheduling. Parents are juggling more roles than ever and a flexible employer can be a huge help during these times.

For instance, you can allow them to arrive at 8 am and leave by 4 pm, so they’re home for their children at the end of the day. In addition, if a child is sick, enabling your employees to work from home for the day or that week can take some stress off them. Simply being flexible and understanding will go a long way in supporting working parents.

Also, while restrictions have eased in many areas of life, the same is not always true for schools. So maintaining flexibility for working parents is especially important in this school year. If there are any problems with quarantines, COVID positive cases, or school shutdowns, your working parents will require more flexibility and understanding from you to remain on the job.

Provide child care benefits.

For many working parents, child care is a big expense. They might send their little ones to daycare or have a babysitter that comes to meet the kids after school.

Whatever the case, it costs a lot, which you can help offset with child care benefits. This can include reimbursements for daycare costs as part of your benefits package or employer-provided backup child care for emergency situations.

Another benefit to consider is enhancing your family leave policy. If an employee needs to remain at home for a sick family member for a period of time, for instance, this allows them to tend to that individual without worrying about their job. Also, make sure that your working parents – and all employees – know their paid leave options. Just communicating about this can go a long way in reducing worry and anxiety.

Be empathetic.

Every year, working parents are plagued with stress and tension about the start of a new school year. This year, it’s far worse due to the pandemic. Another way to support them is to simply inquire about their children and ask about how the year is going. Also, check-in with your working-parent employees regularly to find out how they’re doing. This will provide them with an outlet to discuss how they’re faring, so you’re both on the same page. Showing interest and empathy about the situation will help them feel more supported and valued for the dual roles they play.

Be open about your own family.

If you also have school-age children, or even grown ones, you can talk about your own experiences. If you have a sick child at home and have to telecommute one day, let your team know. This way, working parents won’t feel guilty and anxious when they have to do the same. The more upfront you are about your own experiences, the more comfortable your working parents will feel about being a part of your team.

Make time for carefree moments.

The keyword for the past 18 months has been “stress.” However, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit working parents especially hard. Make sure they have some stress relief in their life. Set aside time before meetings to have a coffee break and just sit and chat. Encourage them to take lunch breaks and go outside for a walk. Even scheduling meetings outside can improve mental health. Overall, focusing on maintaining a healthy relationship with your working parents is critical during this time. Make sure they know you’re there to help them succeed.

Connect your employees to resources.

That said, there will be circumstances where you might not be able to help. If that is the case, connect your employees to the resources that will help them, whether it’s food pantries or food access programs, child care agencies, or mental or financial health services. Make sure your employees know what’s available to them in the form of any supplemental benefits or insurance, especially if it’s clear an employee is struggling.

Do you need help hiring new employees in the weeks ahead?

As one of Houston’s leading staffing agencies, Murray Resources is here for you. With over 30 years of experience, we can partner with you to source, screen, hire and train top-quality talent for a range of positions. We have a 95% satisfaction rate with our clients, which includes organizations from small businesses to Fortune 1000 companies. Simply contact us today to get started.