In recent years, many working parents have found that the traditional 9 – 5 workday structure made it difficult for them to be the parent they’d like to be. While the pandemic gave these employees some more flexibility, it also highlighted the fact that this sector of the labor force needed to spend an average of 27 hours per week extra on child care responsibilities since March 2020.
As companies are now beginning to adopt hybrid work models, managers need to understand the best strategies to use when supporting working parents. Below, we provide our top recommendations for managers to keep in mind as employees return to the office.
The State of Caregiving: How Will It Change After the Pandemic?
There has always been an underlying child care crisis in the United States even before the pandemic came into our lives. However, what has transpired since will make this crisis impossible to ignore from a business perspective.
Last year saw many child care centers shutting their doors due to not having sufficient support. This, in turn, means that there are fewer resources available for working parents to avail of upon a return to the office. This lack of support for child care services saw millions of working moms having to severely reduce their working hours or leave the workforce entirely – leading to what is now being coined as the ‘she-cession’.
Although many working parents are not strangers to the barriers of access to affordable childcare, there may be more challenges ahead. If the caregiving journey continues as it has been during the last year and a half, working parents are facing two scenarios:
1. An inability to return to the labor market if companies don’t ensure that flexible work arrangements aren’t part of the roadmap for returning to the office.
2. Increased burnout levels as a result of having to juggle both a career and child care without adequate company support.
Right now, the child care crisis is at a crossroads. While the United States government has given its word to provide federal support to encourage the reopening of child care centers, this type of investment is not enough.
The real change lies within the hands of company leaders and managers. Without the backing and support of their company, working parents will be unable to fulfill their responsibilities as a parent and an employee.
Embracing Hybrid Models: How Managers Can Best Support Working Parents
So, how can workplace leaders and managers ensure that all of their employees are supported as part of a hybrid work model? In the case of working parents, the answer is clear: flexibility needs to be preserved and it needs to be deliberate.
Below are some of Vivvi’s top recommended actions that managers take when supporting working parents.
Encourage Working Asynchronously
Unfortunately for working parents, child care does not conform to the set office hours many of us are accustomed to. As we saw during the pandemic, many companies offered employees flexible working hours so that they could easily accomplish their work responsibilities while helping their children with online schooling. Why should this stop once a return to the office is on the cards?
Many employees were able to successfully prove that they didn’t need to be online at the same time as their co-workers to get their tasks completed. As part of a hybrid work model, this idea of giving employees more flexibility around deciding how they structure their workday should be a benefit offered to all.
The best way for managers to enforce this is by setting core coordination hours. During these hours, all employees must be online to facilitate meetings or for collaboration. Outside of these hours, employees have the option to work to a schedule that suits them best.
Not only will working asynchronously greatly benefit those with child care responsibilities, but it may also have a positive impact on retention levels.
Reinvent Internal Communications
In the past, it was normal to organize internal team meetings to discuss updates to projects or other important company news. However, not all of these updates need to take place over a virtual meeting link.
Managers should reinvent their team’s internal communications strategy by looking at which forms of communication can be assigned to email, Slack (or equivalent platform), and document sharing. Reducing the need for in-person or virtual meetings unless necessary allows working parents to make time for both caregiving responsibilities and focused work hours.
Offer Part-Time Schedules
The pandemic caused many working parents to experience burnout to the extent that these employees – particularly working mothers – are considering scaling back their careers and working part-time to facilitate balancing work and family.
In response to this, many companies are offering formal part-time options that working parents can take advantage of. However, without the right support from management, this could potentially pose more challenges than first thought.
Choosing to work part-time should not reflect badly on the employee’s abilities or their loyalty to the company. As a manager, you must continue to treat your part-time employees as you did when they worked full-time. That means:
- Offering them the same types of projects and giving them the same level of responsibility
- Work with them to create focused priorities and expectations around their work hours
- Ensure that the benefits offered to these employees are not curtailed due to the change in their work hours (especially concerning family leave policies)
It is the responsibility of managers to make sure that part-time working parents are valued and respected just as much as full-time employees.
Redesign Roles as Job Shares
As employees return to the office, company leaders must be open to the idea of other forms of flexible work arrangements such as job share roles. Restructuring a full-time role into two part-time roles opens up the opportunity for caregivers to partake in a career that they are passionate about and qualified for on a schedule that suits their needs.
Additionally, many companies are now looking at offering return to work programs to those working parents who had to take a career break to look after their children. These flexible work arrangements allow these employees to gain valuable experience as they transition back into the workforce.
Provide Employer-Sponsored Child Care Services as Back-up Care
Along with flexible work arrangements, company leaders should be prepared to assist working parents in accessing affordable child care services. Through an employer-sponsored child care benefit program, employees can avail of backup child care when they need it most.
Whether that is offered via an on-site center, a partnership with a child care provider, or in-home, this will allow working parents to rely on these backup child care services if an issue arises. As a manager, you must be educating team members on how they can avail of these benefits when they need child care support.
How Vivvi Can Support Your Company’s Working Parents
Vivvi partners with employers of all sizes across the United States to provide high-quality and affordable backup child care support to working parents.
Our early learning child care solution is designed to support your employees where they are. With Vivvi, your working parents can get access to world-class early childhood educators that offer extended hours and year-round schedules. For more information on how Vivvi can support your company, visit our employers’ page today.