The holidays are almost here. While many people feel excitement, parents who work remotely have an additional worry: what to do with the kids while they work.
Remote jobs, offering inherent flexibility and the option to work from anywhere, appeal to many types of employees. According to the Global Workplace Analytics, more than 80 percent of the U.S. workforce desires remote work in some capacity. Parents especially appreciate the flexibility. By avoiding lengthy commutes between school and work, parents can dedicate more time to working. But during the holidays, when daycares and schools are closed or have shortened hours, parents often find it difficult to juggle both parenting and work. How can they structure their time, and what can employers do to help?
Working While Parenting
Establishing a work/life balance during the chaotic holiday season can be a daunting task. In a typical work day, most work-from-home parents complete the majority of their work while daycares, schools, or babysitters watch their children. When that childcare disappears, even short term, parents must scramble to care for the kids while still completing their work.
With children around the house, hourly or contracted workers may be unable to complete their required hours, thus losing pay. Salaried workers may worry about lowered productivity. Women especially fear that their managers and co-workers will think negatively of them for putting their children ahead of their jobs. According to the so-called “Motherhood Penalty,” having children negatively affects women’s pay but not men’s pay. The National Women’s Law Center states that on average, mothers earn only 71 cents for every dollar that fathers earn. Commonly, women who make time for their children are thought to be distracted or unprofessional, while men who do the same are considered good fathers.
All in all, balancing work schedules with childcare can bring enormous stress. Luckily, various options can reduce anxiety and help parents’ holiday schedules run more smoothly!
- Adjusting schedules: Employees who normally work a 9–5 schedule should consider switching it up. Working before the kids wake up or after they’ve gone to bed may give parents more time during the day to manage activities, make snacks, and referee arguments. In a few distraction-free hours, they can cross the most time-consuming, important tasks off their lists. Tasks that are repetitive or require less brain power can be saved for when the kids are around. Parents can catch up on emails, fine tune those spreadsheets, or clean up digital files while they’re on kid duty.
- Changing locations: Working in a dedicated home office space is typically a great way to separate home life from professional life. However, when the kids are home, parents should embrace flexibility. They can entertain their kids while they work by taking advantage of widespread WiFi access. They can also work at a library desk while the kids read and play, sit on a park bench while the kids enjoy a playground, or even unleash the kids in a children’s museum or other appropriate, safe venue (if they’re old enough).
- Keeping them busy: Camps are a convenient and fun option for childcare, depending on the children’s ages and the parents’ budgets. Cities, county parks, and recreation systems offer great activities. In addition, many youth programs, school districts, museums, and churches offer short-term camps.
- Getting help: It takes a village! In many cases, family members, neighbors, or trusted babysitters can watch kids periodically. Professional nannies may also be available for short-term work. If parents can’t afford childcare, they can instead make playdates or trade babysitting duties with friends.
- Relaxing: Every working parent has the same issue — they’re all just trying to make things work, so parents shouldn’t stress too much if their days aren’t perfect. If they have to give their kids extra screen time, it’s not the end of the world! And if they accomplish less work than normal during this phase, they must remind themselves that they’ll get it done eventually.
How can employers help?
Odds are that if a company permits remote work, the culture will be more flexible and understanding of childcare struggles. However, if a company wants to become more parent-friendly, here are some ways it can help employees over the holidays:
- Easing up on schedules and workloads: Big meetings shouldn’t be scheduled the Friday after Thanksgiving or the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. If possible, employers shouldn’t assign important deadlines around those days, either. Parents need to know it’s okay if they need to come in late or leave early.
- Offering flexibility: In the holiday season, team members should know they’re free to work outside normal business hours and/or work sporadically throughout the day. A compressed schedule, such as four 10-hour days, might also be helpful to some. Employers should encourage a child-friendly environment by assuring employees that they don’t have to hide their children’s presence. No one wants to be the BBC Dad, but a child popping in during a video chat isn’t the worst thing, nor is stepping out to handle a kid situation. Employers should trust that their employees want to get their jobs done and give them the flexibility to do so.
- Helping subsidize childcare: A pre-tax benefit account like an FSA is valuable for employees. These accounts help pay for dependent care services like daycare, after-school programs, and camps. Employees can save up to 30 percent of their childcare costs by using dependent care FSAs.
- Encouraging use of vacation days or PTO: Americans are notoriously bad at using their vacation days. Employers should encourage their team members to redeem unused vacation days while the kids are home.
With just a little bit of flexibility and patience from both employees and employers, everyone will enjoy the holidays more while still getting work done. Do you have any great tips for handling childcare during the holidays? Share in the comments below!
Author: Ashley Ellingson
Ashley Ellingson is a marketing content writer at HiringThing, an award-winning online recruiting software provider dedicated to changing the way businesses hire talent. Questions? Contact HiringThing Marketing.