How to Support Working Parents As the School Year Begins

With many schools starting up with hybrid or virtual-only learning, working parents are facing childcare and scheduling issues. For associations looking to support parents on their staff, the only hard and fast rule is to be flexible in your approaches.

With many schools across the country starting the school year with hybrid or virtual-only classes, working parents are still scrambling to deal with childcare. Recognizing the challenges parents face, many associations are looking for ways to best support these employees. Lisa Frydenlund, a knowledge advisor for the Society for Human Resource Management, had some tips for employers wanting to help staff facing childcare struggles.

Because work situations vary greatly, Frydenlund said the key is going to be flexibility.

“Many are just trying to accommodate folks with the many challenges,” Frydenlund said. “Ultimately, it starts off with that conversation of, ‘What can we do? What is possible in our work environment?’”

For many associations, having staff work remotely has allowed parents to be at home. “The ability to continue to work remote is definitely an option,” Frydenlund said. “It is helpful, but it is not the end all be all.”

If working from home full-time isn’t an option, Frydenlund said to work on flexibility in scheduling. “If they can’t all be remote all the time, they can come in person on a couple days,” she said. “Also, I’m hearing for allowing varied schedules and more flexibility with when people are able to come in.”

When shifting schedules or implementing remote work, make sure policies make sense for your organization. “If you establish it now, make sure it’s fair and consistent,” Frydenlund said.

While remote work policies may carry on even after the pandemic, it’s not guaranteed so it’s important to communicate that. “Put temporary or interim in front of these policies, just in case you are not able to maintain them,” Frydenlund said. “Those can be difficult conversations after the fact.”

Even if an organization can support remote work in the interim, it’s also important for managers to be flexible in how that work gets done. “Initially, in the beginning, many organizations didn’t know how to manage remote workers,” Frydenlund said. “How do we manage people we can’t see? I think, if anything, now there is a greater understating for what our workforce is going through.”

It is important for employers to lead with “a greater understanding and empathy for people.” For example, work hours for parents may need to be spaced out throughout the day to help deal with childcare or schooling needs. And with parents and children needing Wi-Fi for school and meetings, more organizations are offering reimbursement.

“I know there have been more and more questions about the reimbursement of expenses like internet, and some employers are taking care of that,” Frydenlund said. Some states require reimbursement of Wi-Fi for employees working at home—like California—and more states are looking into it. In addition, some organizations are helping employees upgrade to higher-bandwidth plans.

For employers that can’t offer remote work to employees, many are reminding staff of federal legislation that allows them to take time off to care for children. Others are adopting policies that allow fellow employees to donate leave to coworkers who don’t have enough to meet needs. “If someone has a large bank of time, [they can]  offer it up to an employee who may not,” Frydenlund said. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”

What policies has your association put in place to provide more flexibility to parents with children at home? Please share in the comments.

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Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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