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As school districts nationwide opt for remote learning to begin in the 2020-2021 school year, scores of parents find themselves scrambling to figure out a way to meet both their work obligations and their children’s needs. Parents need to work and children need to be in school or childcare throughout the day – and in ideal times, that is the norm. However, we are still grappling with a pandemic and that adds an additional layer of complexity to the equation.

Turbulent times present an opportunity for organizations to help their employees find a balance between work and home by enacting short-term adjustments that can promote long-term success. If employers do not respond with compassion, they could find themselves dealing with complaints, performance issues, morale issues, and increased turnover.

THE LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS FOR EMPLOYERS UNWILLING TO BE FLEXIBLE

By not accommodating working parents, employers are not only sending a negative message to employees, but they are also opening themselves up to legal action. The Department of Labor (DOL) continues to work to provide guidelines based on recently enacted legislation, making it increasingly difficult for employers and employees to operate in a less than ideal environment. It is up to employers to work with their employees to find proper solutions that work for the industry and organization.

LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS IS BETTER THAN LOOKING FOR NEW STAFF

In June, Cincinnati’s own Fifth Third Bank began offering employees 30 days of subsidized child support, either in-home or at a childcare center, an offer that provides much-needed relief for parents. With Homes.com finding that 82% of the 700 parents they surveyed in July say they are unprepared to resume at-home learning, those 30 days could be a lifesaver.

This is not the only example of measures companies can extend to employees. Offering remote work for all employees, flexible schedules, part-time hours, and onsite daycares can help. Some employers are even helping parents facilitate a tutor to work with small groups of children or hop from house to house for classes. It is important to keep in mind that no one solution is going to work for everyone so employers must determine what will work best for their workforce. Doing nothing, however, is likely not a good option for companies that wish to retain the quality employees and culture they have spent years building.

While there is no perfect answer to these problems, consistently checking in with employees can help employers keep a pulse on morale and find solutions for specific employee situations. Over the last several months, organizations have learned to shift at a moment's notice, and now, as we face another mountainous challenge. We must continue adapting and coming up with creative solutions in response to new challenges. Ultimately, employees are crucial to an organization’s success. Investing in employees is investing in the organization, so talking to employees about their needs is simply a sound strategy.