Back to school is here! Children abandon playgrounds, the beach and video games and return to the classroom. It’s a big change not just for kids but for working parents as well, requiring parents to adjust their schedules for things such as taking children to school, attending parent-teacher meetings, school open houses, sporting events, and other extracurricular activities, as well as volunteering to help out with school-related activities.
Both parents work in about two-thirds of all households with children, and they spend more time caring for their children than earlier generations. In a survey of 1,000 working parents, 85 percent said they were surprised by the challenges that arose when their kids returned to school, with the challenge cited by most parents as being home when their children returned from school. Other concerns included attending school activities and meeting other parents.
It’s no surprise that stress levels for parents jump when kids return to school. What makes matters even worse is that there is little allowance made by employers to help parents through this more hectic period, as surveys have shown. But there are things employers can do to assist their workers in handling the return to school, not only helping workers but themselves as well — accommodating employees helps with morale and retention.
One of the primary ways employers can help is by putting flexible scheduling practices in place. For many parents, flexible scheduling isn’t just something that is nice to have, but essential for them to maintain a good work-life balance, to meet their obligations to both their work and family. Flexible schedules help both employers as well as employees.
For example, flexible scheduling and allowing an employee to work remotely would enable a parent to leave work early to attend a conference with a teacher and then finish a project at home afterward.
But for flexible scheduling to work well, it requires good communication between managers and employees as workers’ schedules change depending on school events or other obligations.
Scheduling Work Events
Another way employers can accommodate parents of school-age children is by planning work events during the day, rather than after work. For example, social events such as employee happy hours, team dinners or workshops can be scheduled earlier in the day to allow parents time to pick up children from school or other school-related activities.
Instead of beginning happy hour at 5:00, companies can start at 4:00, team dinners can become team lunches, and workshops can end a little earlier.
A Culture That Values Work-Life Balance
Enabling all workers to have a healthy work-life balance is important. It helps with employee morale, productivity, and retention, and so should be a part of the company culture. Companies need to show they value a good work-life balance by incorporating events for employees and their families as part of the company operations, for example, with company picnics or holiday parties.
Communication and Feedback
To determine the effectiveness of flexible scheduling, supervisors need to solicit ongoing feedback from workers. To do this, the company can send out short surveys to employees, allowing them to respond anonymously with comments and suggestions.
Company leaders can also lend their support by showing they recognize the challenges parents face. Managers can do this through emails, even discussing how they handle the demands of parenting and school.
Need someone to come in for even just a couple of hours one or two days a week in order to help a working parent attend a school function, or stay home with a sick child? Contact the Helpmates branch nearest you, let us know the skills you need and we’ll send you a talented temporary associate!