No greater dynamic shift happens at home than when kids are on a school break — whether it’s a week for the winter holidays or two months for summer. Families trade their daily school routine for the chaos of camps, long days at friends’ houses, road trips and sometimes TV marathons. This dynamic shift at home trickles down to the office in a variety of ways.
School Break Challenges Affect Parents
While the kids may love being off from school, kids’ breaks never quite match up with work schedules. This affects working parents.
A Change in Routine
It’s not your typical “get dressed, eat breakfast, catch the bus” schedule anymore. Breaks often mean camps for older kids and alternative childcare for little ones. They may involve a drop-off at a grandparent’s house or remote-working parents working from a place other than home.
When childcare isn’t available and parents must work, it’s tempting (and sometimes necessary) to allow kids to watch TV and eat junk food all day in an effort to keep them occupied and content.
Parents may find they spend more when kids are home on breaks — from food and clothes to entertainment costs and extra childcare expenses.
When kids are home and parents must go into an office, children may be left alone if childcare isn’t available.
With routine changes also comes concern about transportation. Parents are asking themselves, “How will I get all the kids out the door and to their activities and still get to work on time?”
How School Break Challenges Affect Work
Because there is no hard-and-fast separation of life and work, kids on break affect your business, too.
Parents who work remotely when their kids are home have noise in the background of conference calls and constant interruptions — some more embarrassing than others. (Anyone remember the news anchor broadcasting from home during the COVID-19 lockdown?) But working from the office doesn’t solve all these problems. These parents spend their breaks checking in with kids and caregivers on the phone, or driving back and forth rather than caring for their own well-being by getting a cup of coffee or taking a quiet lunch.
Productivity and Quality of Work
As with any dynamic shift at home or in the office, productivity and quality of work may take a hit. This is life for all of us — a state of ebb and flow. No one can operate at 100% productivity all the time.
Many Employees Out of Office
With school breaks come family vacations. Work-life balance is crucial to employee well-being and it’s wonderful they’re taking earned PTO, but operating on a skeleton crew can put a strain on the team back home doing the work. It may also extend turn-around time for projects.
Accounting for all these factors, parents’ stress levels are high. Operating this way takes a toll on employees’ health and work habits.
How to Accommodate School Break Challenges at Work
Unfortunately, many employers and managers just conduct business as usual. Maybe they don’t have their own children, have a partner or help at home, or maybe they do have kids and overcompensate by not being generous with accommodations. Whatever their reasons, their failing to account for parents’ experiences affects not only the office culture but also burnout and retention.
Here are some solutions to adapt work to real life:
Start by hiring the right people. Build your team with people who have integrity and the right talents who will do quality work. Then develop those people.
You may want to hire people who are talented in multiple areas and consider cross-training them so they can step into other roles when tasks are needed.
In times when additional resources are needed, consider temporary employees, contract workers or interns and plan early for such a need so they’re lined up when the time comes.
Talk Early and Often
Prepare for breaks in advance by having conversations a few months ahead of time. These discussions should include things like expectations and parameters for the job and also accommodations. This isn’t a one-time conversation — make sure you’re asking your team about their lives consistently. Ask questions about what you can do to help them take care of themselves, and keep the conversation open and transparent.
Create a Shared Calendar
Make schedules and flexibility a proactive, team-based discussion. A shared calendar with upcoming projects as well as out-of-office notices helps the team plan for appropriate resources and support.
Invest in Parents
Workplaces should use parents’ experiences to their advantage — adding nuanced perspectives to create better solutions. Leaders must adapt and accommodate in a reasonable manner or risk losing good employees and their ideas. Invest in your employees. Develop, strengthen and engage them so they’re doing their best work for the company. Employees don’t leave companies when they’re happy, cared for and accommodated.
Employers can keep employees accountable to their work while still accommodating and adapting to parents in a way that’s beneficial for everyone. Offer parents flexibility in terms of scheduling, plan meetings according to when they can attend, and accommodate requests for temporary remote work if they don’t already have this option. This doesn’t mean a lack of accountability. If you set parameters clearly, employees can decide if the role is right for them. Give people the most choices possible.
Create a Culture of Adaptability and Accountability
Leaders can create a culture of adaptability AND accountability. Make the right hires, develop them and strengthen them. We have tools like Talent Online® Assessments and TeamViewSM to help you do this. A culture-based organization will have more capacity and agility to deal with change.
Zack Robertson is a Leadership Consultant at Talent Plus where he partners with executive leaders and teams to create Talent-Based Organizations ® where individuals and organizations can optimize performance, engagement and growth.
“Communities, organizations and teams are exponentially better when individuals understand what they are best at and put those talents to work in a way that positively impacts those around them.” — Zack Robertson
Top Talents: Intelligence, Ego Drive, Conceptualization, Response to
Negativity and Relationships