Children are back in school all around the country. While for many parents, going back to school brings welcomed structure and childcare relief, the school year doesn't come without its new challenges and obligations. Parents must juggle drop-off and pick-up times and manage after-school activities, award ceremonies, parent/teacher conferences, homework, volunteer commitments, and more. It's not easy to transition between summer and back to school. How can your leaders support working parents?
School drop-off and pick-up times can differ significantly from the summer schedule. You can work with parents to coordinate flexible start and end times at work to ensure their children arrive at school and work safely. Most employees will appreciate the flexibility and, in return, will be more engaged and loyal, putting the extra hours in to ensure they don't leave a job undone.
Grace for Schedules
Throughout the year, the school will schedule events during the workday, which can be stressful for parents trying to juggle a job and these obligations. No parent wants to miss out on an important milestone. Allow your employee to take time off for conferences or performances without losing their standard PTO, or consider the addition of "personal days" to your PTO package.
If you've been there before, don't be afraid to share your experience. Sometimes parents need someone to tell them everything will be okay. Your personal experience in this arena can be helpful to them. Share what worked and what didn't. And use your empathy for their situation when handling work-related issues. This is a perfect way to lead by example. Don't be afraid to tell your employees that you're leaving to pick kids up from school or for their piano concert or soccer game. You can normalize this work/life balance and reduce guilt.
The feelings of guilt are in the back of your employee's minds regardless of their flexibility at work. It's normal for someone to feel this kind of guilt when having to juggle so many responsibilities. You can't act as a therapist, but you can provide access to support for your team, including information about mental health through your insurance or subscriptions to online therapy platforms. This is also a perfect opportunity to showcase equity in the workplace. While acknowledging parents is important, it's equally as important to offer the same flexibility to all employees. You never know what someone is handling at home outside of parenthood, including caretaking for others that can impact their schedule.