Survey: Employers are Turning to “Extreme Flexing” to Support Working Parents (i4cp login required)

Productivity

The 2020-2021 school year is fast-approaching and working parents
with school-age children are confronting continued COVID-19-driven uncertainty
about what’s ahead.

Data from a new pulse
survey of 275 business professionals
 fielded by the Institute
for Corporate Productivity (i4cp)
, which explored the strategies
organizations are implementing to support working parents as the pandemic persists
and summer winds down, found that the number-one strategy continues to be
flexing work arrangements.

The survey asked respondents to tell us about the actions
their organizations have in place now and what is under consideration to
support working parents.

In addition to flexing work schedules, the other two most
cited practices are (respectively): posting a variety of resources and other
information to the company’s intranet and expanding leave policies.

While these practices are relatively unchanged from the
responses to pulse surveys we ran in the early days of the pandemic, what is
evolving is the degree to which policies are being loosened and long-held
workplace norms are changing.

In reference to flexible work arrangements, some open-ended
comments mentioned “further,” “expanded,” and even “extreme flexing” (e.g.,
managers and employees
negotiating creative schedules that will meet both the needs of the employee
and the organization).

Extreme
flexibility is a tactic that may help employers retain talent as the pandemic
marches on and the fatigue of trying to balance homeschooling and work pushes
people to the breaking point (see this post re: women being more likely
to leave their organizations due to ongoing homeschool demands). This also
helps employees feel that they are better equipped to show up for work (and
their colleagues) effectively.

Noted one survey respondent: “We are strongly advising managers
to provide ‘extreme flexibility’—each person’s situation is unique and if
employees feel like they have autonomy, control, and flexibility, they are more
apt to be able to address their own personal needs.”

Practices that are most commonly cited as being under
consideration for possible implementation are: looking at ways to retain
working parents with specific programs/offerings, offering concierge services
that partner with employees to find child-care that’s the right fit for each individual’s
needs and situations, and providing  discounts to regional and national
child-care programs for employees.

Other strategies and recommendations mentioned in narrative
comments included:

  • Expanding hours of operation to allow more scheduling options.
  • Providing free online tutoring and other educational resources.
  • Exploring online tutoring services paid for in part by the company.
  • Providing company-sponsored programs led by internal teams and
    employees geared toward children such as storytelling or activity time to free
    up an hour of parents’ time.
  • Hiring specialists to help train employees on helping their
    children with online learning.
  • Encouraging employees to establish a schedule and routine
    that kids can rely on and collaborate with their managers to design a realistic
    workday around that schedule (e.g., agree to core hours or days or both).
  • If they don’t already exist, establish parent communities (e.g., Working
    Parent ERG) that allow parents to get together and share ideas, resources, practices,
    and support and also advise the organization about what’s needed.

For more resources and ideas, the i4cp
resource page for working parents can be found here.

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