While we’ve all had to adapt, the pandemic has been especially difficult for working parents with young kids, many of whom have to juggle working from home with child care or online learning. In fact, one in five working-age adults in the United States has been unable to work due to COVID-19 disruptions to their childcare arrangements. Of the parents who have continued to work, many have had to take paid or unpaid time off suddenly to take care of their children if they become sick or their daycare closes down temporarily due to an outbreak. Others still have had to adjust their work hours to care for their children or even quit their jobs to do so.
There is no doubt that we are all in trying times right now, with working parents being hit especially hard. This is a good opportunity for staffing agency owners to rise up to the challenge and make it a priority to cultivate a workplace culture that recognizes and supports the needs of working parents. Here are some strategies to help you create a flexible, empathetic, and family-friendly culture in your agency.
Every working parent will have a different schedule. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to scheduling for working parents. Some employees may need to work remotely around feeding times and tantrums while others will need to leave work early to pick up their children from school or daycare.
It will bring great relief to working parents to know that you’re flexible with meeting times and start and end times. In some cases, it’ll mean they can continue to be employed and provide for their families. Ask them when the best time is for them to work and when you shouldn’t schedule meetings. Expect some of your employees to request to work during the evenings and weekends to free up time during the day for school and daycare pickups, strict toddler schedules, and online learning.
Children are being sent home from school with tummy aches and unable to return until they get a negative COVID-19 test. In other cases, working parents will need to take time off suddenly if their children need to stay home from school or daycare due to an outbreak. That means that, on any given day, employees may need time off to stay home with a child. Employees will appreciate knowing their jobs are safe and their leadership is supportive if they need to take some time off to care for their children.
Ideally, provide a set number of paid days off for these extenuating circumstances, but time off without pay will also be appreciated by working parents who understand the effects of absenteeism on the bottom line. At the very least, consider changing your time-off policy to allow employees to swap shifts as needed.
What do working parents need most right now? A break. If an employee needs a long lunch or a mental health day to recharge, encourage them to take it without repercussions. After all, adequate rest and relaxation lead to greater focus and productivity at work.
Everyone can benefit from a healthy work-life balance, but working parents in particular often struggle to find enough time in the day to work full time and spend adequate time taking care of their families. This is especially true for remote employees. When working from home, it can feel like you’re sleeping at the office as your work and home lives start to blur. Employees may feel like they’re constantly working or on call when they work from home. Employees who do not have good work-life balance are more likely to be burnt out and to have lower job satisfaction. This situation could lead to higher turnover and greater recruitment costs for your agency.
Successful remote workforce management includes encouraging all employees to turn off their computers and ignore emails after the workday is over. As we mentioned earlier, the “workday” can look very different for remote working parents, so this doesn’t necessarily mean from nine till five. Once an employee has established a schedule that works for both your agency and the employee’s family responsibilities, they should be encouraged to sign off during their non-working hours, whenever they might be.
Healthcare is more important than ever right now. Not only are your employees worried about their own health but they may be worried about their children’s health and wellness as well. Providing adequate healthcare benefits and resources can go a long way to providing peace of mind and supporting parents during this difficult time.
Apart from providing healthcare benefits, offer mental health support and encourage employees to reach out if they’re feeling overwhelmed while juggling responsibilities or they’re worried about their children’s anxiety or isolation during the pandemic. Instances of anxiety and depression are increasing right now as employees try to manage their new normal. Financial literacy programs can also be valuable to working parents. This is particularly true for those who have had to reduce their hours and, in turn, their income to care for children.
Some employers go above and beyond for working parents by either subsidizing childcare costs or providing on-site childcare services. If you have the resources to provide either option to your employees, it can not only ease burdens for them but also help improve productivity and reduce absenteeism, which benefits your agency and clients.
While everyone can use social connections, working parents in particular might feel overwhelmed and alone. Encouraging social networking at work, like virtual coffees, can help their mental health, reduce stress, and improve morale. You can also build connections between the whole family and your agency by including kids in work-sponsored activities like a Halloween costume or pumpkin-carving contest or even remote karaoke. Taking the time to help build social connections is a small and easy way to support working parents. As a result, it can help boost morale in small and large agencies alike.
Check out our blog post, “Reviewing Staffing Agency Employee Benefits in the Time of COVID-19” to learn more about supporting employees during COVID-19.