Back to school can be a stressful time for working parents. Trying to get children settled into a new routine while scrambling to fulfill work obligations is no small task. Fortunately, there are a few ways HR can help with this transition and reduce friction.
Offer Flexible Scheduling
A study by Care.com found, “More than 40 percent of respondents said they arrive at work late and leave early during the back-to-school season.” This shows that punctuality basically goes out the window during this period. One of the best ways to accommodate the needs of working parents is to offer flexible hours and give them some slack during the first few weeks of a new school year.
Here are a few examples of flexible working arrangements that can help:
- Allow employees to adjust their schedule so they can come in a bit later than normal
- Offer shift breaks at specific times parents need to leave the workplace
- Offer reduced hours during the back to school period
Discuss various possibilities with your staff to see what works best for them. Keep in mind that you won’t necessarily need to offer flexible scheduling year-round. It’s just for a two- to three-week period.
Provide Telecommuting Options
Another effective way to reduce stress levels is to allow your employees to telecommute in the fall. The luxury of working from home gives them wiggle room to be there for their kids while remaining productive. This working arrangement is actually a lot more common than you may think.
A 2015 Gallup report notes that 37 percent of the U.S workforce telecommutes to some extent. This number is likely to keep rising in upcoming years as technology continues to advance. There are numerous software platforms available that can aid in this process and streamline collaboration. Some popular platforms include:
In theory, nearly any digital task can be done from home. Even partial telecommuting can take the pressure off of working parents.
Consider Back-Up Childcare
This is an employer-sponsored benefit where you contribute financially to offer childcare arrangements for your employees’ children. Employees typically receive a designated number of days each year (e.g. 20 – 30), so they can take advantage whenever the need strikes.
Back-up childcare covers the tumultuous back to school period as well as sick days or when schools are closed due to inclement weather. You can learn more about back-up childcare here.
Back to school can be an incredibly difficult time for working parents. Their plates are piled high and stress levels can increase. You can help them navigate this transition by thinking ahead and implementing these tactics. It makes your employees’ lives easier and also reduces tardiness and absenteeism.
The notion of a 40-hour workweek has become antiquated. According to a poll from Gallup, “Adults employed full-time in the U.S. report working an average of 47 hours per week, almost a full workday longer than what a standard five-day, 9-to-5 schedule entails.”
This can be especially difficult for working parents trying to balance their work-home life and trying to raise children. So what is HR’s role in helping them find balance?
Maternity and Paternity Leave
When it comes to the policies your company implements and enforces, it ultimately falls into HR’s hands. Whether you have a formal HR department or just a small team of individuals who oversee this area of operations, it’s their responsibility to ensure your employees have a healthy work-life balance. Two specific policies that should be a major priority are maternity and paternity leave.
The period after the birth of an employee’s child is a critical one. It can be incredibly demanding and stressful on new parents. It’s a time when the mother needs to effectively recover and recuperate from delivery and is a critical time for forming a strong parent-child bond. Therefore, employers should make maternity and paternity leave top priority.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 was specifically geared “to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families.” A big part of HR’s responsibility is to ensure that working parents are given adequate time to attend to the needs of a pregnant woman, newborn child or for the adoption and foster care of a child.
Other Ways to Improve Work-Life Balance
There are several other steps your HR can take to ensure working parents achieve a nice balance. Here are some ideas:
- Enforce vacation time – Not all employees utilize their vacation days. In fact, The LA times reports, “Americans left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012.” This can lead to fatigue and burnout and be toxic to the well-being of families.
- Offer telecommuting options – Working from home, even part of the time, can be tremendously helpful to working parents.
- Offer flexible scheduling – An example would be having the option to work four longer days and have a three-day weekend rather than the traditional five-day workweek.
- Provide childcare benefits – This includes offering free on-site childcare or discounts to local childcare providers.
Benefits for Employers
Helping working parents achieve a healthy work-life balance doesn’t just benefit your employees. It can have some tremendous advantages for your company as a whole. It’s known to reduce employee turnover, raise morale and increase overall productivity. Helping working parents find a balance can also help enhance your reputation within your industry and be a catalyst for attracting high-level talent.
A significant percentage of the labor force has children under the age of 18 (70.5 percent in 2016). As an employer, it’s important to help working parents achieve a healthy work-life balance so they can devote adequate time to raising families. By understanding HR’s role in this process, you can establish the necessary framework to make this a reality, which should lead to benefits across the board.