For many, summer is synonymous with vacation and relaxation. But for working parents and caregivers, this time of year can feel like anything but a vacation.
Instead of enjoying the warmer weather and relaxation time, the reality for working parents is summer can be organized chaos: They try to juggle work duties, childcare responsibilities and jam-packed schedules.
Eventually, some caregivers are spread so thin they start to burn out. In fact, a study from The Ohio State University found that working parents are significantly more likely to experience burnout compared to non-working parents, And oftentimes, that burnout can show up at work, leading to lower productivity, absenteeism and turnover.
HR can help working parents overcome summer stress. Here’s how:
For working parents, summer equals stress
When school lets out for summer, it can throw a wrench in a parent’s normal schedule and make it significantly harder to balance all of their responsibilities. Without consistent childcare – and when kids have activities planned throughout the day – parents still have to facilitate activities and transportation, even during work hours.
“The end of the school year means parents – and especially moms – are thrust into a new routine, one that often leaves a scramble to fill children’s schedules with daytime activities and childcare coverage,” says Allison Robinson, CEO and founder of The Mom Project. “This change in schedules may mean parents have to focus their attention on late-night work or logging on first thing in the morning, or line up work calls during activity drop-off or pick-up times.”
The stress doesn’t only affect parents, though; it can have an impact on co-workers, too. “The summertime may also lead to added stress for parents that worry a disruption in work is having an impact on their workplace team members, while simultaneously feeling guilty about missing family time,” says Robinson.
Childcare is a seemingly simple solution to help working parents, but it’s not so easy. A 2021 Bankrate.com poll found that almost half (46%) of parents with children under 18 had to pay for some kind of summer childcare, and 19% expected to spend $1,000 or more per child.
On top of that, there’s also a childcare crisis, making typical care like nannies and day camps harder to come by, and skyrocketing costs due to inflation.
One major key
There are many small ways that HR can support working parents during this time of year, but there’s one major key that can have a big impact for working parents: flexibility.
“Remote and flexible work opportunities play an important role in helping working parents balance the many responsibilities they face, professionally and personally, over the summer,” says Robinson. “During the summertime, when schedules tend to work around a child’s activities, employers that support a creative schedule, or have no requirements for in-person office days, are a game-changer for parents.”
Flexiblity can be the reason an employee – especially a parent or caregiver – stays or goes. In fact, a lack of flexible working hours is one of the top three reasons women left their employers in the past year, according to Deloitte. And a study from KinderCare found almost a third of parents have taken a job that pays less with more flexibility, and 34% said they would consider it.
For working parents, flexibility could look like:
- logging off in the afternoon when kids get home from their activities and logging back on after they’ve gone to bed
- limiting the number of meetings that a working parent has to attend when they don’t have childcare, or
- allowing working parents more flexibility in when they come into the office when school’s out.
How HR can help before it’s too late
Supporting working parents can help them do better work and increase belonging at work, which can come with a whole host of benefits. But support isn’t just a nice-to-have anymore; it’s a necessity, unless you want to risk your best people walking out the door.
Robinson offers these three ways employers can show their support for working parents over the summer:
- Encourage PTO – Employees need to feel empowered to actually use PTO to take vacation and enjoy time off without feeling guilt. Fostering a culture that encourages employee PTO will alleviate feelings of guilt working parents may have.
- Foster a supportive internal culture – Team managers have a major influence on the internal culture. Employees will follow in the footsteps of managers that actively encourage team members to fully check out while on PTO, establish flex hours to accommodate summer family needs or are transparent with their own summer schedule challenges.
- Support summer flex hours – When school’s out for the summer, a consistent routine tends to go with it. Creative schedule opportunities, like Summer Fridays that enable working parents to sign off and enjoy summertime activities with family and friends, go a long way in showing employees how much you care.