Over the past two years, many working parents have had to learn to juggle their time between work and looking after their children. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 47% of working parents reported that their job performance was negatively impacted by having to homeschool their children, according to ONS data. With the school summer holidays now upon us, working families are about to feel the pressures of delivering projects while also keeping the kids entertained once again.
So, how can organisations support working parents, or those with childcare responsibilities, during the summer holidays? At FDM Group, we believe that there are many benefits of working in partnership with parents to ensure they have the foundations in place to be able to work and take care of their children, without feeling like their job is in jeopardy. We explore the steps that can be taken to give working parents more flexibility and support during the school holidays.
7 ways to support working parents
In 2019. ONS data revealed that there were approximately 6.2 million couple families with dependent children in the UK, and of those couple families, around 73% had both parents in employment. This highlights the potential for lost working hours due to a lack of or insufficient childcare, which can have a detrimental effect on business success.
There are a number of steps that organisations can take to ensure that working parents are fully supported.
1. Build a healthy work culture with good practices
Businesses should provide a work culture in which a healthy work-life balance is encouraged, and implementing good practices plays a huge role in creating exactly that. During the pandemic, businesses were forced to offer flexible and remote working to their employees in line with government guidelines; this is something that organisations should continue to offer, especially for working parents.
Flexible working for parents is a lifeline that many employees need in order to be able to deliver consistently high performance in their roles. There will always be occasions when an employee will require more flexibility, whether it’s due to their child being ill or their childcare falling through.
Be sure to encourage regular breaks and focus on productivity, rather than working a set number of hours every day. Condensed hours is a popular arrangement for working parents, which allows employees to work three days a week for longer hours, as it typically results in the need for one day of childcare when there are two guardians. Putting trust in employees that they will still deliver the quality of work required in time to meet deadlines is important for establishing a strong working culture, which encourages employees to become self-starters.
Working Families is a UK charity that works alongside employers, giving them the tools they need to support their employees when creating a flexible and high-performance workplace.
2. Offer support programmes for working parents
Flexible working schedules are just one component of an environment that enables working parents to thrive in the workplace. Offering a strong support programme in tandem with flexible working can have a huge impact on helping to keep employees engaged and productive.
Understanding the support that working parents require is the key to building a successful support programme that will speak to their needs. For example, employees who are working parents may benefit from support with access to a mother and baby group or a safe space where they can talk about their concerns. Creating a community of support amongst parents can also help employees during the school holidays, whether that’s car pools or childminding.
Training is key in providing support to working parents, especially when it comes to management and leadership roles. Providing managers with dedicated training on how to empathise with parent employees can often have a positive impact on relieving stress and reducing absences.
3. Provide the option of remote working
Remote working is an attractive option for many working parents or those with childcare responsibilities. Taking away the hassle of a long commute allows employees to spend more time with their families and often means that they can organise their time more effectively, especially if they have young children. The availability of flexible working for parents will allow employees to handle any childcare issues, particularly during the school holidays, and work around school drop off and pick up times during the term.
4. Offer assistance with childcare for working parents
A recent Mumsnet survey conducted in 2021, found that 88% of working parents admitted to routinely taking time off work, either annual leave or unpaid leave, when their children are sick. But what happens if their childcare fails? If employees have access to reliable childcare, they are less likely to take absences, experience stress and are likely to be more focused and productive.
Finding the right childcare can be a difficult task, and an expensive one at that! Childcare options for working parents are limited, so it can be a huge help to have an employer who is understanding of that. Organisations can help by setting up a workplace nursery or reserving places for its employees’ children at holiday play-schemes, for example. Help with childcare costs for working parents can also make a difference to employees; offering employees funding towards childcare can provide some much-needed financial support.
5. Consider reassessing workloads during the summer
The school holidays can add more stress to employees’ workloads, especially as they are forced to consider how to balance professional and childcare needs. It’s important that working parents don’t start to feel dissatisfaction or burnout in their professional life - they need time to focus on both their children and their career. Arrangements such as annualised hours or term-time working can allow organisations to plan the workflow in advance to meet the needs of the business, while supporting working parents.
The average cost of childcare during the summer months is £145 per week, according to the Holiday Childcare Survey 2021. Reassessing workloads can help employees with the burden of the cost of childcare, as well as finding the time to look after their children and complete their deliverables.
6. Encourage transparency in communication
Sometimes, the simplest solution is often the most effective solution. Regular communication is the key to ensuring that employees feel supported in the workplace and is often the best solution for working parents.
Encourage employees to be open and honest, and create opportunities for managers to regularly check in with their colleagues. This will ensure that tasks are prioritised and schedules are managed effectively to suit both the employee and the business. FDM offer a number of employee support initiatives, such as regular employee surveys, which create discussion around shared characteristics, and a safe space for parents to talk about their concerns to higher management.
7. Demonstrate empathy
To ensure continued business success, it’s vital that organisations demonstrate empathy towards working parents and their childcare challenges. Navigating work priorities and caring for children will always present its struggles, so understanding and flexibility can go a long way. Allow employees with childcare responsibilities to adjust their schedules around their children, as this will maintain employee engagement and their well-being.
Anyone with childcare responsibilities will know how stressful it can be during the school holidays, so anything that employers can do to relieve some of the stress won’t go unnoticed. Employees should feel like they are respected, supported and most importantly, understood and businesses that go the extra mile will benefit greatly, too. Lower levels of stress, higher productivity rates and an increase in employee satisfaction are all achievable through providing support.
At FDM, we realise that not all organisations have the existing infrastructure in place to be able to offer some of these initiatives. We offer support programmes for our consultants to ensure they have all the tools in place to be successful in their roles.