Many employees are finding obstacles in between them and a return to work. Schools are still running remote learning in many places, daycares are still shuttered, and a lot of employees have no options for childcare. This is particularly true for high risk parents or the sandwich generation who might also have an elderly relative at home.
The solution for many employees ... and businesses ... is flexible work schedules, although this can be challenging to implement for companies that have traditionally run a standard 9 to 5 schedule.
However, many employees have the choice between scrambling to find childcare (and potentially risking exposure) or quitting their jobs. Attracting and retaining talent is going to require flexibility for the near to medium future.
What Flexible Work Practices Are Helpful?
Traditional flexible work practices such as starting the day late after kids leave for school or coming home early may not be as helpful to workers. Instead, employers need to communicate (even over communicate) with employees to ensure that they are providing the right kind of help.
It’s also important to be culturally sensitive. Traditionally, Black and Hispanic workers have had less ability to access both telework and flexible schedules than their white colleagues, and their specific needs need to be taken into account. There are a number of things employers can consider, though, that are particularly helpful for those struggling to find childcare in the current situation.
One of the most important things employers can offer caregivers is a predictable schedule that doesn’t change from week to week. The specific hours may vary according to individual needs, but what’s most important is knowing when you are going to be working.
This may also mean rescheduling or recording meetings so that workers do not have to randomly go in early or stay late. Schedule meetings for the time of greatest overlap.
On the same note, recording all meetings and making recordings and transcripts available is helpful to workers who may have a childcare emergency and not be able to attend. This may also be a good time to audit who is and is not required to attend meetings; many employees feel as if they waste too much time in meetings that are not particularly useful to them.
Having to attend meetings at set times can completely destroy a working parents’ ability to work, even with other flexibility offered. Meetings are very likely to coincide with school activities. The option of running meetings out of school hours is present, but may cause issues for others or be an unpopular choice. It can be difficult if parents have children on different school schedules, as is fairly common for different ages, requiring meetings to run into the evening.
Recording remains the best option, and providing opportunities for employees to comment on meeting agenda items both before and after the meeting can replace attendance for many people. Key employees who are required to attend or who are running/facilitating the meeting should be allowed to set the time to their convenience, within reason.
Providing Paid Sick Leave
Providing more paid leave is obviously something companies can do as they can afford it. The CARES Act has required paid sick leave and expanded family leave for smaller employers, although this will likely expire. Sick pay does not have to include a premium for overtime.
Obviously, this can get expensive, and employers need to balance it with employee needs. At the very least, though, sick leave should be provided for those who have a family member who is sick and need to self quarantine.
For many working parents, the best option is partial telework, coming into the office two days a week and staying home three, for example. This should allow families to have one parent able to be at home with one eye on the kids. Some employers have also been doing rotations by week in order to reduce the number of people in the office, but a day by day schedule is likely to be better for those who need somebody to stay home with the kids.
Another option is to temporarily replace commuter benefits with emergency childcare, childcare subsidies or even on site childcare assistance. Some companies have been using unused conference rooms as remote school locations for children. For most, though, it’s easier to find a childcare provider to partner with or set up a childcare account.
Emergency childcare benefits can be useful for those who have childcare arrangements, but something happens, such as the childcare person getting sick or the other parent having an unexpected meeting.
Compressed Working Week
Not everyone can do four longer shifts instead of five shorter ones, but it’s an option for some working parents, who can thus be free to deal with their kids for three days a week instead of two. Non-standard schedules can also help ... for some families, temporarily, having one parent work over the weekend so they are free during the week can be potentially helpful.
Improved Collaboration Tools
While consolidating and improving collaboration tools might seem to be a tangent, it’s important for predictability. It makes sure that workers have all of the information on schedules they need, allowing for meetings to be set up at proper times.
It also helps reduce everyone’s stress levels to know where to find all of the files and information they need, especially with employees working remotely at some times and in the office at others. Employers can best enforce this by ensuring all conversations about projects stay in the same place and are not wandering across multiple channels of communication.
The most important element is patience and understanding. Flexibility and predictability both require everyone to be on the same page and help employees deal with these difficult times.
Providing flexibility is how you attract and retain talent in these difficult times. It’s also important to learn from this to find out what you can offer in the future as we move out of the pandemic and into the next phase. Lessons learned now can be applied later to develop workplaces that better accommodate the needs of working parents and also of disabled employees and others who benefit from flexible work systems.
ABOUT PLATINUM GROUP
Platinum Group is a full service human capital management (HCM) resource that allows businesses to manage their payroll and benefits compliance, track time and attendance, and conduct other human resources functions in a way that maximizes efficiency and eliminates redundancies. This is made possible by means of our platform, iSolved. For more information about Platinum Group, or to schedule a demo of iSolved, please visit our website.