Even before COVID, working parents had a lot on their plates. But these days, the stress goes well beyond the normal school-activities-homework rat race. Parents are worried about their children’s (often at-home) education, their family’s well-being, and keeping up at work. And, the pressure, guilt, and uncertainty never go away. Luckily, there are things employers can do to lighten the load.
What your organization can do
There are wide variety of ways to give parents some support.
First things first: Have a written remote-work policy for everyone
If you haven’t already, create (and clearly communicate) a work-from-home policy that applies to all workers—not just parents. The policy should establish expectations around things like:
- Who can work at home (and why)
- Hours employees are expected to work (and when)
- Protocols for prioritization, important meetings, tasks, or deadlines
- What happens if an employee gets ill or needs to care for ill family members
Whenever you make changes to this policy—especially if you’re making adjustments that impact childcare—give parents (and all managers who may manage employees with children) as much notice as possible. That way, parents can find childcare solutions and managers can accommodate work schedules as needed.
Next: Look for simple actions with big impacts
There are several easy things employers can do without too much effort that make a big difference for parents, such as:
- Allow flexible work hours—Allow parents to work outside the 9-to-5 schedule if they need care for their kids for part of the day
- Schedule meetings thoughtfully—Work with parents to schedule critical meetings at times when kids are less likely to be around—whether they’re busy with school or being cared for by others
- Create kid calendar alerts—Devise a way for parents to alert other employees (via calendar notations, slack channels, etc.) about times when they are away on kid duty or might have kid interruptions
- Accommodate kid sightings and interruptions—Ensure parents know it’s ok if kids pop up in the background of a zoom call, especially during times when an employee has designated that kids are around
- Cultivate a parent community—Use online tools like Teams or Slack to help employees with kids share ideas or resources
- Remind employees about health benefits—Your healthcare packages likely include health services that can help employees with stress and anxiety
- Offer extra PTO—Whether parents are struggling with childcare or need flexibility to manage the impact of COVID on their family, knowing that there is extra PTO time available can be comforting and engaging to employees
Finally: Consider taking it to the next level
Many companies are thinking creatively to help parents (and other caregivers) stay afloat, by finding ways to:
- Provide childcare options—Partner with services such as Helpr or [email protected] to help families find reliable permanent or temporary childcare
- Create a company daycare—A work-sponsored childcare center can be a convenient lifesaver for parents.
(Note: According to SHRM, “the Internal Revenue Service lets companies claim 10 or 25 percent of the cost—up to $150,000 a year—when they set up a daycare center or subsidize their employees’ childcare expenses in other ways, such as providing a referral service.”)
- Offer a dependent care Flexible Spending Account—apre-tax FSA helps families save 30% on certain expenses for children under 13 (and incapacitated adults)
- Give the gift of homework help—Providing access to a service, like tutor.com, can save time and strife when a child needs help with schoolwork (and parents don’t get the “new” math or remember what a gerund is)
- Make dinnertime easy—Send parents meal kits such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, or simply have groceries or takeout delivered
Encourage people to use the benefits you offer
If you create all these policies, benefits, and programs; employees need to know they can use them without fear of discrimination or stigma. Employees won’t take those extra days of PTO if it’s going to impact their performance evaluations. Commit to promoting a culture where every employee feels comfortable using the benefits you offer. For example, managers could set “PTO Meetings” with employees with the sole purpose of encouraging employees to use PTO days before they lose them.
Overwhelmed? Salo’s HR team can help you get set up
Need help researching, developing, or implementing HR policies around COVID? Salo can provide senior-level HR consultants that can help you through the whole process. Contact me to learn about how Salo can help in any facet of your HR operation.