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How to Support Working Parents With Back to School

It's back to school time already? As their children's first day approaches, working parents will be preparing for yet another uncertain year ahead.

Although more students will have the COVID-19 vaccine compared to the start of last year because children 6 months and up can now receive it, the virus can still spread in classrooms. In the case that their child is exposed to the virus, parents may have to stop working to pick them up for school, make arrangements for them to quarantine, and take care of them if they start experiencing symptoms.

Regardless of whether they are working from home or in the office, your employees who are parents might be feeling overwhelmed and anxious. This is why establishing a supportive workplace for parents is critical to ensuring their wellbeing, productivity, and retention

So how can companies help these employees navigate the year ahead? 

Here are some ways you can support working parents during the transition back to school:

Clear Communication

The key to supporting your employees during this time is having clear communication. Schedule some time with each employee to talk through any concerns they may have about balancing work with their children returning to school. Clearly communicate expectations and discuss any accommodations they may need to be successful at their jobs. By checking in with these employees frequently, you can build trust with them and create a continuous two-way dialogue to help them feel supported.

Increased Flexibility

With COVID-19 still spreading, employees who have children are still getting used to unpredictable changes in schedules. This uncertainty and cognitive overload can take a toll on their wellbeing and mental health. 

To demonstrate understanding, managers should respond with empathy when dealing with schedule changes or last minute requests. Implementing flexible hours is a great way to help working parents gain better control over their schedules and be there for their children. Shifting towards flexible schedules has been shown to increase productivity and engagement, while helping employees avoid workplace stress and burnout.

Employee Connection

Building relationships with other parents who are experiencing similar challenges can be hugely beneficial for employees with children. Companies can facilitate this connection by encouraging these employees to join their ERG and slack channels dedicated to parents. This will help them feel supported, enable them to share resources and tips, and promote a sense of community and belonging for parents in the workplace. 

In addition to ERG participation, leadership can also host sessions to create another forum for parents to share ideas and get to know each other. Consider starting a lunch-and-learn series for parents or have a member of your leadership team host a candid conversation on back to school-related issues affecting working parents.

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