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Balancing Children at School and Parents at Work: A school calendar

Balancing Children at School and Parents at Work: A school calendar

by Bill Zachry, SCIF Board Member

There are many different life situations facing parents. One of the most rewarding and challenging is the balancing act of raising children while meeting work responsibilities. The fundamental obligation of a parent is to make sure that their children obtain the necessary education to be successful in life. Children who are engaged and supported at school usually become successful adults. Many times employers ignorantly create work situations that do not support this fundamental parental obligation.

In the last few years, with the advent of homeschooling, the Covid pandemic has significantly impacted the parenting process and created problems with presenteeism. For many, balancing parental educational obligations while working from home has been particularly difficult. As more children return to in-person schooling, parental obligations will change and evolve.

If your company wants to recruit and retain the best and brightest employees, it must have specific programs in place which are designed to help parents meet parenting challenges.

Presenteeism is a productivity issue that is caused by workers who are distracted or physically unwell. Presenteeism is the lost productivity that occurs when employees are not fully focused and performing their work activities because of childcare, schooling issues, family concerns (aging parents), illness, or injury. Employees who are experiencing presenteeism are, by definition, trying to give their best efforts but are physically or mentally unable to do so. Although not tracked like absenteeism, the costs of presenteeism have been estimated to be larger in real terms as employees suffering from longer-term conditions see persistent drops in productivity.

Concern over the well-being of a child can directly impact the presenteeism of a parent. Employers who adopted programs specifically to address “school” presenteeism by providing flexible work hours and encouraging the involvement of the parent in their child’s education and school activities are more likely to be able to recruit and maintain a productive workforce.

When I was a VP of Claims, every year, in late July, I would talk to my examiners who were the parents of preschool, kindergarten, first and second grades. I told them that I expected them to take their children to the first day of school and that I did not want them in the office until they were sure that their child was secure and happy in the schoolroom. Many school PTA’s have coffee and donuts for the parents on the first day of school. I did not dock any examiner for the time spent away from the office while they took their children to school.

The first day of school seems to arrive earlier every year. The joy of a parent taking the child to school and the relief of knowing that everything is OK is palpable. I believe in presenteeism. I knew that if I supported the parents that they would support me and the company with a job well done.

There are specific activities and programs which employers can implement to maximize presenteeism involving the balance between a children’s school and a parent’s work.

  • The employer and the parent should be aware of “The School calendar” and the associated parental obligations which are required for each event.
  • The employer should encourage and celebrate the parent’s participation in school-based activities (field trips, Halloween parades, birthday parties, etc.)
  • The employer should not engage in activities that significantly increase the costs for the parents. One example is that some after-school facilities have a five-dollar-per-minute charge for late pick-up.
  • Under no circumstances should meetings or other work responsibilities impair the ability of a parent to safely drop off or pick-up a child from the school or childcare facility.
  • Single parents or grandparents who are responsible for school- age children may have unique needs.
  • The employer or supervisor should be aware of any special childcare responsibilities that the employee may have.
  • Many school administrators do what they can to accommodate parents’ needs and schedules. They can be an important part of the team. Check with them to help determine participation and scheduling.
  • Parents should inform the employer of their schooling responsibilities and obligations. This will allow the employer to better facilitate and allow accommodation.
  • When a child is sick or there is an emergency the employer should work with the employee to make sure that the employee can promptly attend to the situation without remorse or experiencing retribution.
  • Empowered employees will not have problems with meeting their schooling responsibilities.
  • Encourage the use of EAP programs if there are issues that are overwhelming the employees.
  • Internal company financial incentives and production goals should be aligned to avoid inadvertent pressure on parents not to meet their schooling obligations. Misaligned incentives result in the company stating it supports parents but front-line supervisors do not.

A typical School Calendar

First day of school
Labor day
Back to School night
Field trips
Medical emergencies
“Snow” days
Birthday parties
After school activities
Pick up child on time
Thanksgiving break
Winter concert/talent show
Holiday party and break
Martin Luther King weekend
President’s holiday and ski week
Valentine’s day
Parent-teacher conference
Spring break
Open House
Regularly scheduled medical visits (eye, dental, etc.)
Team sports (gymnastics, soccer, baseball, football, etc.)
Memorial day
Summer break

Great employers will have better presenteeism and greater employee retention if they understand and support the education of their employees’ children. Frontline supervisors should be aware of the local school calendars. They should help work with the employees’ schedules and obligations to facilitate an engaged and productive workforce.

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