The pandemic changed the way that parents handle child care responsibilities. Hybrid work may do the exact same. As employees return to the office, it is guaranteed that working parents’ needs will have changed since managers last saw them in person. In this article, we will look at how parents can understand what their child care needs are now and how employers can support these needs best.
Hybrid Work Models and Child Care: A New Way of Prioritizing Caregiving?
With offices reopening, working parents are caught in the middle of wanting to return to the pre-pandemic life they knew and having to juggle childcare responsibilities. While hybrid work models will offer a welcome reprieve to many working parents, it also raises the question: What will our child care needs be in a post-pandemic world?
The pandemic taught us that caring for family is a high priority for many employees in the United States. With options remaining unclear regarding daycare options and child care shortages continuing, many parents view returning to the office full-time as problematic. However, hybrid workplace arrangements may give new meaning to what it means to be a working parent with caregiving responsibilities.
As we reach two years of the pandemic, the flexibility that many companies offered working parents to help them transition to remote work seems set to stay – but to what extent?
For hybrid work models to be successful, companies need to acknowledge that the pandemic changed the way that caregivers (especially those with young children) prioritize their responsibilities. After all, family will always come first.
Working Parents Must Redefine Their Child Care Needs
It is no surprise that the child care needs of many working parents will have changed since the last time that they were in the office. However, understanding and communicating these needs may not be as straightforward for these employees as you may think.
Just like the transition to working remotely, it will inevitably take time for working parents to fully understand how a hybrid work arrangement will impact how they manage childcare. However, once they do, employers must be ready to listen and act.
The pandemic made it necessary for employers to offer flexi-time so that working parents – especially working moms – could incorporate their work responsibilities into the hours that were not taken up with household duties and child care responsibilities. Even though many companies are returning to the office, caring for children has changed dramatically.
Many parents will find that they need flexibility and more autonomy over where and when they work to achieve the work-life balance they seek. With that in mind, companies will need to have open conversations with their employees about how a hybrid work model will work best for their families. Reverting to the family policies that you offered below will not do – your employees need you to adapt to their changing caregiving needs.
How Employers Should Be Supporting Working Parents in Hybrid Work Models
Hybrid work arrangements might be the future of work and it will require trial and error before your company gets to a place where every single one of your employees is content. However, to make sure that your most effective employees are in a position to return to the office you must make one thing a priority: robust child care.
Assuming that the needs of working parents will be the same as they were before the pandemic will be a recipe for disaster. Instead, you need to look at how your company can support working parents better. While we know that flexibility will be important to these employees, what other ways can employers be supporting working parents? Let’s take a look below.
Offer Job Shares
There are a lot of employees out there that can no longer stay in their current job capacity until there is a clearer picture of how child care support can be accessed. This is particularly true for those working moms who had to scale back on their working hours to accommodate homeschooling.
Offering job share roles as part of flexible working arrangements will allow many working parents to stay in the labor force in a capacity that makes sense for their family arrangements. This could be ideal for those working mothers that are looking to re-enter the workforce after the pandemic.
Provide Robust Employer-Sponsored Child Care Solutions
Back-up child care is going to be key to hybrid working models, especially as the child care industry is still experiencing shortages and closures across the country. Partnering with an affordable and high-quality child care provider will allow your employees to gain access to a “sticky” benefit which will double up in alleviating child care woes while boosting retention rates.
When employees know that there is a reliable provider that they can access on-site, on-campus, or in-home that offers a reputable early learning program, it boosts engagement, productivity, and loyalty levels.
Continue to Enforce Boundaries and Set Expectations
A return to the office doesn’t mean that your company should remove all the boundaries and expectations that you set in place during the pandemic. Instead, make these a core part of your hybrid work arrangement.
For example, if you set an expectation that every employee would receive a two-hour block each day that would be meeting free, continue this. Similarly, if you know that working parents may need to be offline for certain hours due to caregiving responsibilities make sure that these boundaries continue to be communicated to relevant team members.
Create Support Structures for Working Mothers
As we all know, working mothers were hit hardest during the pandemic and there are still questions over how easily these employees will be able to return to the workplace. Companies will need to do more to make sure that a hybrid office is inclusive and supportive of working moms.
That means designing support programs that are geared towards building a sense of community and offering peer-to-peer advice will be vital as part of hybrid work. Providing child care support is one thing but if you aren’t providing support structures for working mothers themselves then your company will struggle to keep them as employees.
Vivvi: Helping Employers Support Working Parents in Hybrid Work Arrangements
Vivvi partners with employers of all sizes to provide their employees with access to high-quality, backup childcare when they need it most. To be there for your employees in a hybrid work environment, our flexible offerings can be accessed in one of our campuses, in-home, on-site, or via virtual care.
Our team of experienced early childhood educators give working parents peace of mind as they transition between the office and working from home. Visit our employers page to learn more about the benefits and ROI our child care offerings have provided to businesses like yours all over the United States.