By Alison Hinson
We usually think of summertime as a relaxed, happy time of year. However, summer can be full of complications and stress for working parents. With school out for 12 or more weeks and school-sponsored after-care usually not available, parents are left scrambling to fill each day with some sort of age-appropriate activities for their children.
How many parents of school-aged children do you have on staff? Employees' stress will invariably impact their productivity and your workplace, so here are some suggestions for easing the parental summertime blues:
Provide Flexibility and "Fight the Conspiracy"
Many summer programs for children have hours that are not convenient for parents who work a traditional 8am to 5pm job. I jokingly call this "the conspiracy against working mothers," but there is some truth to this. Just look at how many camps have hours from 9am to 3pm.
Given these time constraints, consider letting parents work from home at the beginning and end of each day. Allowing parents enough flexibility in their schedules to take advantage of the multiple programs that run a 9am to 3pm schedule can ease the burden of summertime care.
Explore Alternative Work Schedules
Summer care can be extremely expensive, especially for parents who don't normally pay for childcare during the school year. One way to avoid the expense of summer camps is to encourage parents to share childcare duties among a group of friends. Since most school-aged kids just need a responsible adult in the house to initiate independent activities, allowing a parent to work from home a few weeks during the summer could be an easy solution. If three families shared "kid duty" for the summer, a parent would only need to work from home a total of three weeks to cover the majority of the summer. Offering flexibility to occasionally work from home can go a long way in reducing parental stress.
Don't Reinvent the Wheel
Parents have been dealing with this issue for decades. Since this need will come along again next year, consider providing a forum for parents to share creative ideas on how they have handled summer childcare in the past. Even if it is just an informal lunchtime gathering, the combined knowledge of the group may spark ideas and solutions.
Ultimately, a business owner or manager is not responsible for providing daycare solutions for parents, however business productivity is impacted by the stress and concerns that working parents deal with each summer. Helping parents come up with workable solutions can make your business a "workplace of choice" for working parents. It's in their best interest, which means it's in your best interest.