Every company in the nation should want to help working parent employees through this particularly difficult back-to-school season. But the real question is, how? Luckily, one mom gave four concrete strategies employers can take to lessen our loads.
Erin L. Thomas, Ph.D., the VP, head of diversity, inclusion and belonging at Upwork, a global freelancing platform, took to Twitter to suggest some research-backed ways employers can help working parents right now. With some schools and daycares closed, many parents are homeschooling while working full-time this fall, so we need all the help we can get.
Easier said than done, but Erin explained why it’s so important. “For parents, dollars for childcare provide the freedom and flexibility to cobble together the supports they’ll need during this unpredictable time,” she wrote. “Employers must reassure parents that they don’t have to make binary decisions—stop working altogether or work as usual. Of course, that message has to be true.”
According to a July 2020 study by Willis Towers Watson of 550 US companies, less than one-third of employers have childcare plans for working parent employees returning to work. Something’s gotta give.
“Employers can assist parents by leveraging benefits providers or even crowdsourcing curated lists of local tutors and accessible resources that give them a place to start,” Erin wrote. “It’s also the time to provide and assess the utility of back-up childcare options. Gone are the days when parents will be relieved to invite a stranger into the home to keep an eye on a 7th grader who’s learning virtually while dad attends a daylong Zoom ‘offsite.’”
Empathy, understanding and flexibility—these qualities cannot be underscored enough these days. For more on what managers can do for parents working remotely, here are a few concrete steps. As Erin so eloquently put it, “What does ‘all in this together’ actually look like through 2021?”
She recommended leveraging a parent ERG for this step—and if you’re not yet a part of one, you should be. “Bring in expert facilitators to help normalize stressors and talk through unique circumstances,” she wrote. “Provide 1:1 coaching and parent/family therapy even for parents who aren’t on your health plan.”
The diversity, equity and inclusion professional concluded that there is so much employers are able to do to help working parents, even if it’s just one of these action items. Noting that there’s no such thing as a universal solution, she said that acting proactively is the key amidst this crisis.
“Companies are in the unique position of providing more clarity and certainty to parents than titular sources of authority (federal government, local school systems),” Erin wrote.
This isn’t the first time the mom has shared her wise words for employers on Twitter. In July, she shared four different action steps companies can take to help working parents in another insightful thread. Unfortunately, her advice is still just as necessary as it was a month ago. Several surveys, including one by Healthline Media, have shown that with schools closed, anywhere from 25 to 33 percent of parents will have to quit their jobs due to a lack of childcare. Employers, are you hearing us now?
Erin finished her thread with something we should all keep in mind as we seek “solutions” to the issues at hand.