The pandemic has severely disrupted the education and childcare systems that millions of parents rely on while they’re at work.

And that has many companies trying to figure out how to help working parents juggle the added responsibilities of remote learning and childcare while still getting their jobs done.

“Covid has accelerated the demand for programs that retain and attract working parents — specifically working mothers,” said Sarahjane Sacchetti, CEO of Cleo, a family benefits platform.

That has more companies prioritizing family benefits, she said. “We’ve seen an acceleration of ‘middle ground’ employers, who typically weren’t in the perk wars, start to look at this category.”

But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The demands of a toddler on a working parent are much different than that of a sixth grader or a teenager, for example.

Here’s a look at some of the programs companies have started to help working parents:

Financial help

Childcare is one of the biggest expenses families face. And with some schools opting to do remote learning full-time or only meeting a few days a week in person, some parents are facing the added expense of finding care during the workday.

Some companies are helping to offset those costs. Bank of America, for example, is reimbursing eligible employees $75 or $100 a day for childcare, depending on their compensation, through the end of the year. The reimbursement can be used for children 12 and younger and workers can choose their own childcare.

Additional paid leave

Some companies are hoping that giving working parents more time off will help lighten the load.

Parents at Microsoft received an additional 12 weeks of paid parental leave earlier this year to help with extended school closures.

Google extended its family leave to 14 weeks in April for workers to take care of their families during the pandemic.

Keeping kids occupied

Kids have a lot of energy, and it’s hard to keep up with them while also trying to get your work done.

So software developer Globant decided to help working parents at its company by providing virtual activities for kids that are run by outside professionals. The activities include art classes, movement breaks and magic shows.

“The schedule is published ahead of time so parents can plan for it,” said Sanja Licina, lead of Future of Organizations at Globant.

The company plans to continue to hold virtual activities until students can return to the classroom full time.

Flexible schedules

For some parents, the afternoons are the craziest time of day. They might be trying to help their kids with homework, participate in virtual after-school activities and prep for dinner, all of which makes focusing on work next to impossible. For other parents, this might be the most productive time because that’s when their child is napping.

At Paylocity, employees work with their managers to set up a schedule that best meets their work-life demands.

“We provided guidelines to managers on all the different arrangements we could offer employees to still get work done,” said CEO Steve Beauchamp.

That’s led some workers to embrace split schedules, which could mean taking a long break in the middle of the day and coming back online in the evenings, or working a four-day week with 10-hour days. Some have also chosen to temporarily reduce their hours and have their pay adjusted.

The company also added more PTO and sick days to give workers more flexibility.

Expanding childcare

Toyota has done several employee surveys to identify what its workers are struggling with and how best to help them.

Workers at its Georgetown, Kentucky, manufacturing facility expressed concerns over virtual learning and how they were going to help their children if they were at work.

In response, Toyota created an on-site program for children in kindergarten through fifth grade to help with their virtual classes. The center has supervisors to help the children with remote learning as well as homework and after-school activities. The program costs parents $150 to $170 a week.

Talking about it

Childcare hasn’t always been a welcome conversation in the office. But now, there’s no hiding it. And some companies are embracing it.

At Cleo’s bi-weekly All Hands meetings, children often make guest appearances, with no less than five babies popping up on the screen at a recent one.

There’s also a parents’ Slack channel, where parents actively share tips, swap funny stories and yes, voice any frustrations.

“To support the programs you are offering, you have to have a conversation and bring light around it,” Sacchetti said.

(Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
(Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

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