The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many employees due to evolving expectations, increased stress, and constant changes in the workplace. For working parents, these challenges may be particularly difficult. The demands of work are now intertwined with their roles as caretaker to their children, some even taking on the role of amateur school teacher as well.
Schools across the United States have canceled in-person classes to help control the spread of the virus. While some states were considering opening schools in the Fall, the recent increase in COVID-19 cases could cause states to shut down once again. If this happens, child care will continue to be an issue and impact the ability for many working parents to return to work.
While everyone is eager to get back to a pre-covid feeling of normalcy, it is possible that stay-at-home orders and public health related restrictions could continue well into the year. Governor Gavin Newsom of California warned that the sharp increase in the number of people hospitalized with problems related to COVID-19 could lead to stay-at-home orders once again. Currently, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered bars be re-closed in seven California counties due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, foreshadowing the possible closure of more businesses if cases continue to rise. With the uncertainty of the future, working parents must prepare to continue balancing work and home life more than ever before.
It continues to remain unclear for parents if schools, camps, and daycares will open, and if so, in what capacity. There is no easy answer on the horizon for parents, or the companies that employ them, on how to navigate this unprecedented time. As employers, it is important to support working parents that are now working, teaching, and parenting at the same time.
Read on for tips on how employers can support working parents as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to blur the lines between work life and personal life for many employees.
With prolonged uncertainty for parents and employers, and childcare shortages continuing to complicate returning to work, it is important that employers maintain their support and offer flexibility to their workers. Providing flexible work schedules or arrangements may continue to be the norm as employers navigate the rest of the year amid the coronavirus pandemic. There are a few easy ways to create flexibility in your workplace that help ease the burden of working parents and promote work-life balance for your employees.
In response to COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Labor created the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or ACT). Which requires employers with 500 employees or less to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will continue through December 31, 2020. Remind employees that they may be able to receive:
Beyond time-off benefits, there are other ways employers can help support working parents. If your organization provides health insurance, remind employees that throughout the duration of the pandemic, all forms of public and private insurance must now cover FDA-approved COVID-19 tests and costs associated with testing. This means if any employees or their family members experience symptoms of COVID-19 they will be able to receive the test at no cost.
Employers with employee assistance programs (EAP) can also direct their employees to utilize that resource. Employees may feel anxious, confused, or stressed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, or have children that need help coping with anxiety and fear. Most EAP programs offer counseling services that address these issues and are generally offered to employees and their family members at no cost. Even if your organization does not have an EAP program, you can still provide employees with information from reliable sources on psychosocial services and give them tools on how to help themselves and their children.
Offering support and understanding to your employees who are working parents is a small way you can make a difference in their day. Working parents may be struggling to wrangle toddlers or help with homework in between meetings and daily work demands. Simply acknowledging the struggle of working parents, and taking time to listen, can help parents feel heard and supported.
It is important to understand that the world for working parents is demanding right now. Taking the time as an employer or manager to understand what your employees at-home schedule and demands will allow you to work together to readjust priorities and manage expectations. The more supportive you are as an employer, the more productive your employees output will be.
With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, it is important as employers to maintain flexibility, patience, and empathy for your employees especially as working parents struggle to balance the demands of the workplace and home life more than ever before. The future is unpredictable, and the time is unprecedented. This is your opportunity as an employer to be a role model in supporting working parents and lead by example. We are all in this together and supporting working parents will help them continue to remain resilient as the pandemic presents new challenges for workplaces and families alike.