Supporting working parents during back-to-school season and beyond

As families all over the country enter another school year, a more structured routine is a welcome change for many (if not all) parents whose summers are busy juggling caretakers and camp schedules, vacations, screen time and trying to make sure their kids don't forget everything they learned during the prior school year.

But the benefit of getting back to a more consistent routine also comes with the stress of homework, testing, extracurricular activity schedules, transportation and more.

This stress can also extend into the workplace as parents and other caretakers attempt to rebalance work and family commitments. According to Pew Research, both parents work full time in 46% of all two-parent households today. Workplace leaders and managers who show support and offer flexibility for their employees’ families can improve their focus and productivity. Here are five ways you can help ease your employees’ transition into the back-to-school season and beyond:

Offer flexible schedules

Be aware of working parents’ family commitments and work with them to plan their schedules accordingly. Whether it is allowing an employee to start their day a little later so they can get their kids on the bus or leaving early for a soccer game or practice, be willing to work around priority commitments. Also keep open lines of communication and touch base with employees often so you can stay ahead. This is especially important in the retail, hospitality and food service industries, where a majority of schedules are given only a week or less in advance.

Encourage remote work days

The Trends in Workplace Flexibility study from FlexJobs and WorldatWork reported that 85% of employers allow telecommuting on an ad hoc basis, 82% allow flexible scheduling and 82% allow workers to work part time. This is especially helpful for commuters who may benefit from working from home to accommodate their kids’ back-to-school breakfast or chorus programs. Telecommuting has shown productivity benefits and has reduced absenteeism. In fact, according to Global Work Place Analytics, companies that allow telecommuting report a 63% decline in unscheduled absences.

Prioritize quality over quantity

While there are certainly exceptions, worker productivity is determined more by the outcomes produced than the number of hours worked. Where possible, allow employees to manage their time, and place your trust in them to get the job done. Similarly, some employees are more productive during off hours, so as long as employees are delivering results, try not to get too hung up on a hard-and-fast 9-to-5 schedule.

Focus on wellness

Many parents are short on time for themselves. Companies that offer wellness benefits such as gym memberships, flu-shot clinics and other health-oriented perks can demonstrate support for and a commitment to the health of all their employees. Parents especially value these benefits, as they can help them save time and focus on other matters.

Respect time off

In 2015, more than half of working Americans did not use their allotted time off, according to Project: Time Off. In addition, 22% of workers said it was challenging to take time off because they wanted to show they were dedicated to their employer. This is detrimental to overall productivity, as studies show that time off can help make for improved employee attitudes and performance. Encourage all employees to use their vacation and flex time, and be mindful of their time off, so they can truly disconnect and reset.

Working with your employees to ensure they have what they need to be successful -- including peace of mind when it comes to some of the day-to-day parenting stresses -- can go a long way.

 

Cord Himelstein is vice president, Michael C. Fina Recognition.

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