The school holidays puts pressure on working parents. Employees, particularly single parents, may struggle with arranging annual leave to cover the summer holidays and balancing work with childcare. Vicky Walker, group director of people at Westfield Health, gives employers tips on how to ease the burden on workers with childcare responsibilities.
The benefits of flexibility
Flexibility and remote working are attractive options, especially for those with childcare responsibilities. Allowing working parents to work from home when they need to over the school holidays will enable them to maintain their home priorities better and work without them having to take any time off. Westfield Health’s research examined whether employees felt comfortable using workplace benefits to support their wellbeing. Of the employees offered it, 92% used remote working, 89% used a four-day working week and 86% used flexible hours.
Being flexible with hours and allowing employees to switch to a four-day working week allows those with caring responsibilities to schedule their personal life better because it provides employees with more choice about how and when they get the work done while also continuing to meet the needs of the business. Employers should also considering people’s work schedules when booking meetings; employees may want to work earlier or later to account for their children being at home.
It is also important to note that lockdown has changed perceptions and expectations. If needed, the option to work at home not only eases stress but also improves employee satisfaction.
Keep communication flowing
It is important to make sure that communication between employees and line managers is open and honest. This will ensure that employee needs are heard and met, preventing the chances of burnout or work overload. This is especially important for parents during school holiday periods, as the holidays can add even more tasks to their daily agenda.
It may be beneficial to consider arrangements such as reducing hours during the holiday period and redistributing workload across the team. Managers should check in every week to see if their team’s workload is manageable for this to work and prior to implementing, make sure everyone is comfortable with the extra workload and how it has been distributed.
Homeworking in the UK
If reducing hours is not a viable option, consider implementing alternative benefits, such as extra annual leave or allowing people to carry over any remaining holiday from the previous year to take when the holiday period arises.
Being as clear and fair as possible when it comes to booking annual leave during this period is important. Before any holiday periods, make sure to remind employees to book in advance so workload can be managed accordingly avoiding potential burnout and frustration in the team.
Juggling a job and children comes with challenges. It’s important for businesses to recognise the potential stress that comes with looking after children while working. With the past two years exposing many businesses and professionals to the stresses and intensity of managing both your personal and work life from home at the same time,being understanding and empathetic is important.
In our culture of wellbeing e-book, Kate Platts, our head of research and innovation, notes that emotional intelligence is the key to a trusting, collaborative and rewarding workplace, with both employee job satisfaction and a positive sense of wellbeing being closely linked to leadership’s emotional intelligence. Traits of emotional intelligence critical for leaders include empathy, flexibility, connection with others, self-awareness, and authenticity, enabling a form of agile leadership that is both visionary and powerful as well as human and genuine.
To ensure working parents can healthily manage childcare and their workload and are not stretching themselves, so their wellbeing is at risk, line managers and company leaders need to ensure they adopt an agile leadership style and remain understanding.
The traits of emotional intelligence are not innate. Compassion and sensitivity to the emotional experience of others is a skill that can be increased through training and will benefit both the individual and the entire organisation.