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How to Support Working Parents in a Global Pandemic

Nicole MacLean
Nicole MacLean

As we continue to navigate the strains and challenges of the new work environment, one group that continues to need support is parents. Being a working parent has never been easy, but now they have to juggle daycare, sports, activities, eLearning, and work.

At the start, employees thought, “Summer’s coming. We’ll have school in the fall. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel.” But as the pandemic continued into the fall and winter months, it became clear the short-term, toughing-it-out approach was just not sustainable. 

Parents are worried about their work performance, their mental health, and their children’s wellbeing. This directly impacts their engagement, performance, and productivity at work.

A study by the Boston consulting group found 60% of parents in the US have not found alternative care following school and daycare closures, and have nearly doubled their time spent on education and household tasks. 

This is hitting working mothers even harder. According to Forbes, women currently spend 15 hours more on domestic labor on average each week than men. As a result, one in four women is considering leaving the workforce altogether. 

So what should employers do to increase engagement of working parents during this time? 

Be flexible. 

Alternative work schedules can enable your working parents to focus on their household and work responsibilities separately. Consider a tactic such as windowed work, which establishes certain times throughout the day to focus on work and other times to take care of household duties.

This also allows employers to accommodate more immediate needs such as drop-off and pick-up at school or alternating with another caregiver’s schedule.

Offer intermittent leave.

Intermittent leave can allow your employees to take time to focus on parental responsibilities for periods of time when their children are home doing virtual school and then work when their kids are in-person for school.

This differs from the previous option in that it focuses on weekly or monthly rather than daily changes. So it falls in the PTO category.

Do the little things. 

Sometimes increasing engagement is just about doing little things for your employees that show empathy. Be sure to check in on how your team is doing personally, not just on their to-do list. You could also consider providing kid-focused activities like scavenger hunts, puzzles, virtual tutoring and camps, and daily fun challenges can really help parents who are overstretched and often burned out. 

At Emplify, we’ve made some of our culture events kid-friendly. Recently we hosted a minute-to-win-it event where employees and their children could participate. It was a huge success, and frankly many of the kids did better than the adults! Not only does this provide some relief to parents, but also helps increase co-worker relations.

What you do as an employer to engage your working parents during this time will have a lasting impact on the trust and relationship you have with your team in the long term. And remember, no matter what you do, it truly matters.

If you’d like to dig in more to this topic, check out our podcast episode featuring Megan Nail, VP of Total Rewards Practice at FirstPerson Advisors.

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