The initial coronavirus lockdown recommended by the CDC was only supposed to last 15 days. During the early days of spring, few people were talking about extended lockdowns and social distancing. Almost nobody was talking about keeping school shuttered in the fall. But as autumn approaches, it is apparent that some schools will be operating on a limited schedule and others will not open at all.
This leaves parents in a precarious position. Many households are dual-income by necessity, so keeping one parent home from work in order to stay with kids while they do their schooling online just isn’t practical. But what if kids can’t be left alone due to their age?
BenefitMall, a nationwide general agency and benefits administration provider, says that employers can help out by matching the new virtual schooling environment with additional employee benefits. They also remind employers that not all benefits have to be cash benefits. There are plenty of intangible things employers can do.
1. Offer Flexible Scheduling
The first suggestion is to offer flexible scheduling when possible. Of course, such flexibility is not available in every industry. But if it can be offered, perhaps it should be. Allowing workers to be more flexible with their shifts might also allow them to accommodate children being at home.
Flexible scheduling could allow an employee to arrange for grandparents to stay with the kids three days a week while changing shifts on the other two days gives the parent the freedom to be home. And that is just one example. There are all sorts of ways flexible scheduling could help.
2. Offer Unlimited PTO
Another option is to offer employees unlimited PTO in concert with scheduling freedom. Not a lot of companies do this right now, but it is a concept that has been catching on in the corporate world. The concept is pretty basic.
The company offers unlimited paid time off and completely flexible scheduling with the understanding that employees can set their own work schedules. Workers must complete their work on time and according to standard. As long as they do, they can come and go as they please. They can even mix office and remote work as they see fit.
3. Make Work-At-Home Permanent
If possible, employers can also allow their workers who have been at home for the last few months to continue working at home permanently. If they are still getting the work done without compromising overall productivity in the office, why force them to come back? Make remote work their permanent solution and you essentially kill two birds with one stone. Employees get the benefit of working from home and they do not have to bring in extra childcare.
4. Provide Onsite Childcare
Larger companies can consider setting up onsite childcare centers. This would be a significant undertaking that might also require a significant financial investment. As such, it is the equivalent of a cash benefit from the employer’s perspective. Nonetheless, it could help bridge the gap between parents working and making sure the children are cared for while doing school virtually.
Coronavirus is changing just about everything, including the way parents manage their work schedules. Schools not opening in the fall is bound to create some scheduling conflicts that employers and employees are going to have to figure out among themselves. There is no easy solution for what awaits.
Employers willing to be a bit more flexible can do things to help their employees during what could be a difficult transition to virtual schooling. The extra benefits discussed in this post are just a starting point.