Working Parents and Back to School Stress

Back to school season can be a stressful time for working parents, with 51% saying back to school interferes with work. I asked a few of my colleagues with young children what they found to be the most difficult about their kids going back to school. Their immediate answer was “getting back into the routine.” The second answer was participating in school activities and either not being able to make it because of work or participating and feeling guilty about missing work.

We all know how hard it is to have several commitments at once, and figuring out a balance where we can give the necessary amount of attention to each one is an art form. In most families nowadays, both the father and the mother are in the workforce—and when they add children into the mix it can become difficult to balance at times.

Working parents are thankful for understanding employers during the school year. In fact, according to a recent survey, 43% of respondents reported both coming into work late and leaving work early in order to fulfill their parental duties, as well as feeling a decrease in productivity at work.

We’ve all heard about the giants giving unlimited vacation time, a year paid parental leave, among others—but what are realistic options a small business owner can offer?

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are offered by many employers and are intended to assist employees in dealing with personal issues that may affect their job performance, health and well-being. Remind your employees that these services are available to them. For example, some EAP’s assist employees with locating childcare services to obtain matches to the appropriate provider based on the family’s preferences and criteria.
  • Flextime/remote work: A Georgetown University study found that flexible work schedules can reduce the costs associated with turnover and employee absenteeism. Allowing employees to alter their work schedules to accommodate their children’s school schedules can increase their productivity and allow them the time they need to complete their work. For example, if an employee needs to pick up their children from school early and cannot find someone to watch them for the rest of the work day, they may be allowed to work remotely from home for the rest of the day. Or, they may be allowed to work a set of “flex” hours different from the norm in order to accommodate their children’s schedule while still managing to get all of their work done.
  • Employer-sponsored backup care: Whether it’s in-house childcare or assisting employees in the search for after school care, this can help reduce stress and increase productivity among working parents. A few examples of backup childcare that an employer can offer: childcare referral programs, onsite corporate run childcare centers, contracted childcare centers, contracts with agencies that provide in-home childcare services, and partnerships with websites or services that recruit babysitters or nannies.
  • Outside referrals: companies contract with an outside agency to provide their employees with day care information, rates, locations, and openings at licensed day care establishments. This dissolves some of the stress for parents seeking out the best day care facility for their children.

Allowing employees to alter their schedules or to assist them in finding childcare, is a nice investment. If it’s feasible and increases productivity, retention and happiness among employees, why not ask your employees what would benefit them most during back-to-school season?

As an employer, do you see any signs of distraction, stress, or absenteeism among your working parents? If you have any questions regarding actions you can take to assist working parents, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 410.451.4202.