Parents across the nation are feeling back-to-school anxiety, faced with a practical and moral dilemma as the 2020 school year inches closer. COVID-19 has altered our traditional behaviors and preparations for many routine aspects of life, and this is certainly no exception, creating much uncertainty about how (if at all) our children will return to the classroom, and even more regarding how working parents will manage it.
A recent Deloitte survey on back-to-school 2020 found that 66% of parents are anxious about sending their kids to school, and 76% have health concerns with re-opening. These fears are not unsubstantiated, as there is not yet a full understanding among scientists of how children carry and transmit the virus. Many districts are already planning to continue with remote classrooms into 2021 whether their states decide to enforce re-opening or not.
This can be extra stressful for the working parents in your organization, who may already be working remotely and/or coping with unexpected childcare and homeschooling adjustments from when this all began. Most state homeschooling laws provide little guidance or support for parents, and as a result, many of them are left to improvise.
4 Ways to Support Working Parents
Any way you look at it, it is a necessity for companies to provide support and consistency for their working parents throughout their back-to-school anxiety. Here are four ways you can help them in the upcoming school year:
- Flexible hours – Whether it is allowing an employee to start their day a little later so they can get that first lesson in or allowing them to break early to get their house in order at the end of the day, be ready to work around homeschooling commitments with flexible scheduling. This may be unfeasible in some workplaces, but wherever it’s possible it is perhaps the best support strategy for balancing work and home life.
- Regular check-ins – Now is not the time to shy away from open communication. Managers should be checking in regularly with employees who may be juggling work and homeschooling in the Fall and keeping positive feedback loops going so they can be prepared for any emergencies and/or scheduling difficulties, which are certain to arise. It’s also a good opportunity to connect one-on-one and find out if there are any other non-obvious ways you can help.
- Showing appreciation – It can never be said enough – take the time to recognize great work and daily achievements, especially during exceptional circumstances. That timely recognition can help validate the extra effort employees need to go through in order to keep work and life balanced, as well as provide moral and psychological support at a time when tensions are running high.
- CDC support tools – With so many nuances to the back-to-school dilemma, it can be exhausting trying to figure out the best course of action for many parents. The CDC has put together a suite of tools on their website, including a decision-making tool for parents having trouble deciding whether their children should return to the classroom. Make sure your working parents are aware of these resources and spread the links far and wide.
We’re in it Together
There are so many things that make back-to-school 2020 a completely different situation than any of us are used to, and we hope everyone finds a way to manage it effectively. By sticking to some fundamental aspects of empathy, compassion, and communication, organizations have an opportunity to be a port in the storm. More so, they can provide meaningful support and recognition for a situation that has the potential to affect the wellbeing of not just your employees with children, but the entire population.