Employee engagement opportunities arise every season. For instance, getting kids ready for school can be exciting and stressful for kids and parents—especially parents working outside the home—but you can help ease the transition for your employees and take advantage of a natural opportunity to build engagement.
Kayla Mossien, a care.com contributor and former editor in chief of ParentGuide News, writes in “5 Ways to Help Employees With Kids Going Back to School”:
“To ensure those personal pressures don’t impact workplace productivity, implement the following pointers to keep things on an even keel.”
Remind Employees About Company Policies
Knowing whether paid sick leave, vacation, or personal time is available to parents makes it easier during those times they have to miss work.
“Knowing the lay of the land can provide parents with reassurance and confidence at what can be a stressful time of year,” says Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Families, in Mossien’s article.
Allow Flexible Work Arrangements
Your employees will be better able to focus on their jobs if they have a little flexibility at the beginning of a school year. If they need extra time in the morning, let them work a little later to compensate. Same goes for the end of the work day—if they need to leave early, let them come in early or work from home that evening. If it works in your environment, let them telecommute for all or part of some workdays.
Some of your employees may be sending kids off to college, and when that’s the case, flexibility is especially useful and appreciated. You remember when your parents dropped you off at college? Be the employer that makes it easy for parents to participate during these special moments. You’ll build loyalty, not just engagement.
Flexible schedules can include compressed work weeks, telecommuting, job sharing, flex-scheduling and a results-oriented work environment. Explore them all to see which ones best suit your company’s culture and your employee needs, recommends Mossien.
“Flexible work arrangements—or “work-flex”—are fast becoming a great way to retain, recruit and engage employees,” notes Shabo.
Let Staff Know About Employee Assistance Programs
Help working parents locate various types of resources in their communities—this will also help them focus during the workday. Important resources can include:
- Child care resources and referrals to help find after-school sitters
- Child care subsidies
- A backup care benefit for those days when the kids get sick or the sitter cancels
- Affordable after-school programs
Address Work-Life Balance
Allison O’Kelly, founder of Mom Corps, suggests emailing employees to let them know management understands the work-life challenges during back-to-school time.
Mossien quotes her: “Employers can gain a lot of loyalty from their employees if they are proactive when it comes to recognizing the work-life needs of their team.”
Does your state have ‘family-friendly’ laws? If so, be sure to share the details with your employees.
In the article Shabo observes: “There are also cities and states with ‘small necessities’ laws, which require employers to provide employees unpaid time off to attend a child’s school-related events or to take family members to medical appointments.”
Evolve Your Family-Friendly Policies
Show that you value and respect your workers by emphasizing the importance of policies like parental and medical leave, paid sick days and employee assistance programs.
“Many businesses provide their employees with child care, child care subsidies and flexible spending accounts to offset the costs of child care,” says Shabo.
In “Back-to-School Transitions: Tips for Parents,” on the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) website, Ted Feinberg, EdD, NCSP, & Katherine C. Cowan, list issues parents may need to deal with. As an employer, you can ease the stress by offering employees opportunities to share concerns, listening and demonstrating understanding. Empathy is an important element of effective engagement.
Recognize and acknowledge that employees may need to:
- Visit school with their children to meet teachers and locate kids’ classrooms, locker, lunchroom, etc.
- Postpone business trips, volunteer meetings, and extra projects, where possible, to be available for their children.
- Take a little extra time to help children get up, eat breakfast, and get to school (especially at the start of the school year).
- If possible, volunteer in the classroom periodically to show children—and teachers—that they care about the learning experience.
- Meet with children’s teachers during the workday if issues arise.
Like many things, it’s all about flexibility and open dialogue, Mossien writes. And that makes for an employee engagement opportunity not to be missed.
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