Providing support to working parents without child care
By Kristina Vassilieva
Employer accommodation and flexibility can be a godsend
By Kristina Vassilieva
Although schools have reopened, many students have signed up for virtual learning instead, due to concerns over COVID-19 and a potential second wave.
For working parents without child care, this will mean having to balance their work obligations and family responsibilities as children remain at home during the workweek.
Kiljon Shukullari, advisory team lead at HR consultancy Peninsula, advises employers to support working parents with accommodations and flexibility, among other measures.
“Expecting the same of working parents who are working remotely and taking care of children simultaneously is counterproductive to everyone involved,” he says.
“Employees who have children at home are more likely to struggle with work-life balance, experience stress and be distracted while working. Employers should provide support that will enable employees to work most efficiently, and that will help them balance their responsibilities.”
Allowing flexibility with work hours is one way to help working parents achieve this. Flexible start and end times, as well as break times, ensure employees are able to work when it is most convenient for them and that they are more efficient and productive.
“Some parents will be assisting children with virtual learning, and flexible working hours will help them do this while keeping up with work obligations,” says Shukullari. “Trusting that employees will get their work done regardless of when they do it will facilitate better working relationships, improve job satisfaction and will be surely appreciated by parents at this time.”
Encouraging work-life balance
In some cases, meeting existing targets and deadlines as usual may simply be unattainable depending on individual circumstances. Employers who notice a drop in employees’ performance should investigate the reason for this and, with employees’ input, determine what sort of accommodation would be practical and helpful in making job duties more manageable.
“For example, temporarily lowering targets and extending deadlines will help staff adjust and cope with the challenges brought by the pandemic,” says Shukullari. “Employees’ well-being is incredibly important for the success of any organization, as it impacts morale, productivity and retention rates.”
“Employers should also be regularly checking in with staff, especially remote workers, because personal circumstances may change at any time and a different approach with work may be required.”
As the pandemic continues, employers will also have to consider potential mental health implications. Some individuals may be overwhelmed by the change to remote working and supervising their children’s learning on top of this. Employers can encourage workers to make use of COVID-19 related leave, family responsibility leave and their paid vacation time to get a break or if they need time to make alternate child-care arrangements.
Providing resources, such as employee assistance programs and onsite company child care, are other ways organizations can support working parents at this time.
At the same time, employers should be careful not to forget about the well-being of employees who do not have families and that live alone. These employees may also be in need of support as they may be feeling isolated when working from home.
Kristina Vassilieva is an HR writer at Peninsula Canada.