The rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of working. For many employees, work-from-home orders and closed daycares or schools began at the same time, meaning working from home without childcare instantly became the norm.
While some working parents had the option to share childcare with other families, hire a nanny or have grandparents or neighbors watch their children, others had to navigate the complex landscape of quickly learning how to balance work and childcare. If your employees shifted to working from home at any point in the last few years, it’s likely this has become a topic within your company.
As an employer, you may have found this new style of working tricky to manage. As you discover how to best implement working-from-home opportunities for your business, here are some ways to respect your employees and their family situations while still maintaining productivity for your company.
Working from home without childcare can feel like juggling two jobs at once. Even if two parents are at home the task can feel impossible. Whether one or two parents are working during the day, the presence of kids creates a completely different environment for employees and one that warrants a conversation.
Employers would do well to assess the needs of their individual employees. It’s likely that all of the workers in your company want to know how to balance work and family and lack the necessary tools to make that balance a reality, and each family’s needs will look different.
Consider the following factors when you’re looking at the employees in your company:
What percentage of employees have children living at home?
What age ranges do the employees’ children fall into?
Is there anyone in company leadership with young children who can advocate for family needs?
What is the company culture regarding work and personal life balance?
What are the company’s expectations regarding working from home without childcare?
Is the company hoping to make a temporary or permanent switch to remote work?
Understanding the needs of those in your company and the pre-existing expectations can help you know where to start as you offer support for those working without childcare.
Working without childcare requires flexibility on both ends. Both the individual and his or her employer may have to make accommodations to the daily routine. Flexibility may include non-traditional work hours, later start time in the morning, longer lunch breaks, fewer meetings or scheduled calls only.
In order to retain personnel and grow your employee satisfaction, it’s essential that you respect family time and make reasonable accommodations to ensure that families have the resources they need to maintain a healthy balance. Your employees are your best asset, and giving them the flexibility to care for their families shows that you care about their well-being.
Assistance providing resources
In your assessment of your company’s needs, you may find parents who are wanting for childcare during the day and are unable to find something that fits their lifestyle. You may find that your employees are unable to find childcare that fits their unique schedule or preferences, or is out of their price range.
Companies have a lot of power to make working from home more accessible, by setting up childcare support. Here are a few options to assist your employees in this way.
Subsidize childcare – Many employers subsidize childcare in some way. Whether this is through a Dependent Care Assistance Plan (DCAP) that sets aside non-taxable income for care expenses, or through vouchers employees can redeem at the childcare center of their choice, the assistance is a valuable employee benefit.
Offer on-site care – Some employers offer the benefit of an on-site childcare center exclusively for employees on the days they come into the office. This allows children to be close by for the day, giving parents the ability to visit their children and save time during drop-off and pick-up.
Offer more PTO for childcare – If your ability to offer or financial support for childcare is limited, consider offering more time off for parents who are working without childcare. This may require employees to work compressed hours, but as long as your employees are able to complete their work duties it’s a fair option to offer employees.
Do extra pre-planning for employees with children at home – The best method to ensure your company knows how to balance work and family is to plan ahead and rearrange systems as necessary. Both you and your employees may benefit from shifting duties between employees to better match their lifestyles.
Create a culture that accepts employees working without childcare
An employee may fear losing her job if her kids interrupt a virtual company meeting. Rather than judging or punishing employees for having children at home during the day, companies should make a progressive effort to send the message that family life is supported. Fostering a culture that supports a healthy family life balance means widening boundaries so families are accepted and welcome.
Use these tips to build a culture that supports family life in your company:
Encourage families and individuals to use vacation days
Establish that employees should prioritize the well-being of their families
Clarify a reasonable expectation that children will likely be seen or heard during remote meetings
Get to know your employee’s children by name and ask about how they are doing
Host family events outside of work hours, like a family holiday party or barbeque
Encourage employees to try out different work hours (such as working before kids wake up or after they fall asleep)
Begin an annual “bring your child to work day” so coworkers can get to know each other’s kids and kids have an educational opportunity to learn about their parent’s job
These are just a few ideas to encourage a healthy family-life culture in your workplace.
Consider an Employee Assistance Program
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers completely confidential services that help employees with both professional and personal needs. From mental health programs to time management and life skills counseling, EAPs can offer great value to working parents.
Contact Mazzitti and Sullivan EAP to learn more about how a customized employee assistance program can benefit your company through improved wellness and productivity.