You are not the person you were before the pandemic. And by this time next year, you will no longer be the person you are now. It’s no secret that employees returning to the physical workplace are not the same employees that walked out of the office for the last time in March of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic first hit. Much has happened in that time, and so it makes sense to consider that trying to make the workplace what it once was before the pandemic isn’t only impractical, it might be equally, if not more disruptive than the initial work-from-home transition.
Deciding on a return-to-office strategy is overwhelming, and it’s more than likely that approaches to this will post unique challenges to each of your employees — especially your working parents. While employers struggled to adapt to the rapidly changing work environment nearly 15 months ago, we learned that a new world of work is possible and many welcomed the change. However, working parents faced their own set of unique challenges that consequently resulted in increased levels of burnout, anxiety and stress. Parents were forced to take on significant child care responsibilities while daycares closed and access to helpful friends and family members were restricted. They became educators over night while their children were asked to engage in remote learning for an entire school year, all while simultaneously attempting to stay on top of their workloads without a clear path to reopening in sight. Nearly 40% of working parents had to change their employment situation so that they could care for their children at home, and 47% of working parents felt that their employers just did not understand the strain caused by these new childcare responsibilities during the pandemic. The financial and emotional impact that coronavirus had on working families, working women of color and working single mothers, is much larger than we may even know, especially for those who were already strained for resources.
Many HR teams stepped up to mobilize support for their organizations working parents, yet stress from within the home, from the outside world and from work itself reached unprecedented levels for parents.
As offices consider whether they will be fully onsite, remote or a hybrid workplace, it’s important to keep in mind that many of your employees (whether working parents or not) likely anxiety around yet another rapid change. Employees are concerned about unclear vaccine effectiveness and vaccine side effects, uncertainty around resources they need to be productive like mass transit for commuting or daycare and above all else, going back to the way things were pre-lockdown, with 1 in 3 remote workers reporting that they would rather quit than return to the office full-time. Attrition and productivity loss are all concerns for employers, and so it is a great time to re-evaluate your policies and benefits to ensure you are providing working parents in your organization the resources they need to succeed.
Our friends at Maven have developed the following checklist for practical steps to protect working parents. To read more specifically about each suggestion, download the full guide ‘The HR Leader’s Checklist for Supporting Parents Returning to the Workplace’ by visiting mavenclinic.com/resouce-center.
- Create or refine your hygiene and sanitization plan
- Pay attention to school re-openings
- Communicate Expectations clearly to ease the transition
- Talk to the parents in your organization
- Consider the User Experience
- Emphasize diversity and inclusion in your offerings
- Modernize your family care and maternity benefits
- Expand access to tele-health and on-demand care
- Implement flexible work arrangements
- Adjust expectations in the early days of returning to the office
- Evaluate company culture from the top-down
- Provide resources that tangibly support mental health and combat stigma
Alleviating anxiety about entering this next normal and returning to the office is going to take work, communication amongst employees and leadership, and trust. What is your organization doing to support employees, especially working parents, as you consider returning to the physical workplace?