When offices closed for nationwide lockdowns over a year ago, both employers and employees had no choice but to adapt. Working from home wasn’t ideal for many, especially organizations without an infrastructure to meaningfully support their employees, but it was a preferable alternative to no work at all.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the return to the workplace and the pandemic itself, people are finding ways to make working from home work for them. However, house plants and standing desks haven’t made the adjustment to life at home for working parents any easier. According to a survey by KinderCare Education, almost half of working parents surveyed felt their employers didn’t understand the extent of their challenges. As the world plots its return course to normal, employers need to support working parents or risk losing them altogether.

Flexible work schedules are only part of the solution

Before the pandemic, some organizations were experimenting with flexible work schedules for employees with parenting responsibilities, among others. However, pregnancy discrimination was still rampant towards pregnant women and even fathers asking for paternity leave. In the world of near-mandatory remote work, flexible schedules were easier to implement as a way to manage the hasty transition home. But now that the world is preparing to return to work, many working parents are concerned about how they’re going to manage their child care responsibilities.

For many parents, returning to the workplace without additional support simply isn’t practical. Schools are opening at varying rates, with different degrees of hybridization. After school activities, team sports, and even group daycare facilities are still in flux as well, and subject to vaccinations, reopenings, and local ordinances. Such unpredictability and inconsistency means working parents are still shouldering a larger degree of child care responsibilities than usual, and will lose some of the flexibility that working from home provides. Factor in single parents, families without relatives nearby, parents of children with special needs, or families who can’t afford consistent child care services, and it’s clear a crisis is building. It’s no surprise that one in four employers are seeing talent leave because of these increased caregiving responsibilities.

Flexible work arrangements allow parents to mitigate these circumstances to some degree, allowing them to plan their days around different activities for their children. However, they aren’t helping working parents enough to stay productive in spite of all the distractions and difficulties they’re facing. 

Expand the types of benefits available to parents

The unpredictability of the near-future of work has impacted employers as well: only 32% of companies had clearcut plans for employee child care in a remote or hybrid setting. Consequently, according to a survey by FlexJobs, almost half of working parents surveyed had to alter their working arrangements to accommodate caregiving responsibilities. To attract and retain talent, organizations need to support their employees’ lives beyond the workplace by providing a variety of different benefits. 

The post-pandemic world provides an excellent opportunity for companies to evaluate their offerings, especially when it comes to child care. Expanded child care benefits run the gamut from vouchers for babysitting services to onsite daycare facilities. Although there are a variety of factors that influence what benefits are applicable to your workforce, there are even more reasons to build upon flexible work hours. Providing financial relief, reimbursements, or even backup care can significantly reduce the stress working parents feel while working in remote or hybrid settings.

Beyond this, employers can provide access to mental health providers, additional resources for parents who are homeschooling, and even additional paid leave for parents who need a break. The tradeoff for these benefits is the improved productivity and loyalty of these working parents, and likewise the ability to attract new talent for long-term employment. When talent is hard to come by and harder to keep, every additional incentive helps.

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Ensure benefits are accessible and well understood

Providing benefits is one thing, but ensuring your employers can use and access them is another. It’s no secret that the average employee is confused by or unaware of the full extent of their benefits. Going a level deeper, a Willis Towers Watson survey found that 53% of organizations struggle to communicate their benefits options to employees.

What isn’t captured by these statistics is that many women, especially women of color and LGBTQ parents, experience stigma and discrimination when requesting things like flexible schedules, extended maternity leave, or even using their benefits for fertility treatments. Expanding access to care by adding benefits like telehealth can overcome these challenges, especially for mental health care. Similarly, providing employees with access to a network of providers for low cost consultations and guidance can improve health outcomes and significantly reduce healthcare costs.

Beyond expanding access, HR teams need to develop communications strategies regarding their child care benefits that are accessible to and cognizant of the situations of working parents in their stead. Messaging that highlights inclusivity, destigmatization, and encourages benefit usage is a good place to start, but employers can go farther and lead by example. Leadership can publicly take advantage of benefits like paternity leave, flexible hours, or even services like telehealth appointments to break down barriers for lower-level employees and create a culture of inclusivity.

Explore inclusive, expansive ways to support working parents

There are a variety of different benefits available on the market today that can better support working parents and their families in your workplace. Maven offers a pioneering virtual care model that can deliver better health outcomes and lower healthcare costs for women and their families. Our Parenting & Pediatrics track offers 24/7, on-demand access to providers like career coaches, mental health counselors, and other specialists who can help parents find the answers they need. To find out how Maven can help working families in your workplace, request a demo today.

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