Throughout the pandemic, working parents have faced new challenges.
As schools and childcare centers closed their doors globally, parents have adapted to the reality of working from home while also tending to their children and helping them learn remotely.
Data suggests that working mothers are shouldering much of the burden. As many as 865,000 women dropped out of the US workforce between August and September, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysis. That number is four times greater than the 216,000 men who also left the workforce.
Other countries follow similar patterns. Boston Consulting Group surveyed working parents across the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy and found that the pandemic has caused parents to spend an extra 27 hours a week on household chores, childcare and education. Women are dedicating an average of 15 more hours a week to domestic duties than men.
Accommodating working parents during COVID-19 is important if you want to retain top talent, avoid the costs of lost productivity, limit employee turnover and maintain a positive employer brand.
Below are a few ways that you can provide some relief for the working mothers and fathers in your workforce.
Start by assessing how supportive your current policies and benefits programs are for working parents. Do they address their specific needs? Identify what those needs are and then evaluate your policies to understand where you should focus your efforts. Employee surveys are a great way to collect data and honest feedback.
Layoffs and furloughs are widespread, so there’s a chance your employees are experiencing heightened anxiety surrounding their job security or have recently become a single-income household. Working parents may feel circumspect about being completely open about the difficulty of balancing work and childcare, for fear of losing their jobs. Dedicate time to developing clear messaging that emphasizes your company’s flexibility and understanding. You can even implement creative activities, such as asking parents to share fun photos with their children, to show that you respect their home life.
Encourage managers to check in with their direct reports to gauge their workload and stress levels. Together, they can produce solutions that allow working parents to be more productive and successful with their daily tasks. Leaders should model open dialogue by sharing their own difficulties with working and caregiving during the pandemic.
Now is the time to embrace policies like flex time that allow employees to customize their work hours. Let your employees experiment with switching their schedules as needed. As offices reopen, allow remote work to continue so working parents can care for their children if needed. You should still set some guidelines in an employee handbook and make sure employees are aware of the parameters.
Companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft have offered employees additional paid time off for caregiving needs. This is an option, but you should ensure those without children also feel supported by the collective benefits of caregiving leave. Otherwise, you may create resentment and encounter the headaches these businesses endured.
By taking a long-term view, your company can explore helpful benefits like:
Encourage working parents to put themselves first. Your company can do this by ensuring that health plans include access to mental health services and offer stress management or yoga and meditation classes. Consider offering employee assistance programs and digital mental health platforms like Ginger, Calm and Happify Health. All of these resources can effectively help your employees recharge.
As the pandemic continues to highlight the needs of working parents, many countries and states are already drafting legislation with an eye on the future. In the US, California recently expanded paid family and medical leave eligibility, providing nearly six million additional workers access to protected leave. France recently doubled paid paternity leave to 28 days. Finding a source of accurate, up-to-date global labor laws will help you maintain compliance. Contact us here to learn more.
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Written by Annalisa Rodriguez