- Advertisement -

6 ways to help working parents navigate economic uncertainty

Jessica Chang, WeeCare
Jessica Chang
Tech entrepreneur Jessica Chang is the CEO and co-founder of WeeCare, the largest childcare network in America. A committed early childhood education advocate and mom, she is set on solving the childcare crisis. Prior to co-founding WeeCare, Jessica was COO of Affinity China, a principal investor at Macquarie Capital, and VP of Marketplace at Radpad. A graduate of UC Berkeley, she is a preschool owner herself and resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two kids.

As the possibility of an economic recession looms, many working parents may feel overwhelmed and uneasy about the future. Financial uncertainty can take a toll on anyone—but working parents and guardians carry an added responsibility that is unique to their situation: the wellbeing of their families.

- Advertisement -

During these times, this added responsibility can impact families striving to provide security for their loved ones. And employers may also find themselves in a difficult position.

On the one hand, employers may be hesitant to invest in their workforce due to budget constraints. But they also know their employees are the backbone of their organization, and losing essential workers could have dire consequences. (Case in point: COVID’s worker shortages and the lasting global supply shortage effects. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of having a stable and reliable workforce.)

The last thing you want to do during times of crisis is harm the foundation of your company: working families. Sacrificing parents and guardians during times of crisis will harm your bottom line in the long run and make the recovery harder. It is in employers’ best interests to continue to support their workforce—including their working families—despite the ever-changing world of economics.

Related: Learn more about innovative and flexible benefits to help retain employees at HRE‘s Health and Benefits Leadership Conference from May 3-5 in Las Vegas. Check out the program and register here.

As the founder of WeeCare (and as a working mother myself), every day I speak to employers and working parents who are trying to balance their careers and families. Through that work, I have identified several ways working parents and guardians (along with their employers) can navigate economic uncertainty:

- Advertisement -

1. While employees seek jobs with comprehensive benefits, consider an audit of your current offerings, including childcare benefits.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation 2022 Study, 58% of working parents were unable to find childcare that fit their needs due to location, flexibility and cost. This significantly impacts employees’ retention, absenteeism, productivity, motivation and mental health. Working parents are frontline employees, mid-career professionals and company leaders; they are essential to the company’s social fabric and its bottom line. A long-overdue question for employers that want to attract and retain talent is whether they should consider offering childcare benefits. And if they already do, it’s time to audit these benefits.

However, more is needed than for employers to simply offer benefits; they must constantly communicate with their employees to see what benefits their workforces actually want. And the communication doesn’t stop there: Many employees may not be aware of the full range of benefits available to them or how to access them.

2. Put the “S” in ESG: Create a supportive community for parents in the workforce.

A working parent employee support group (ESG) allows employees to share experiences and tips. These groups may be organized by the employer, by a community organization or online, and they can provide a space for parents and guardians to share resources and ideas, as well as offer emotional support. An added bonus? ESGs can also be a powerful way to advocate for better workplace policies and practices by creating a collective voice for working parents. With a supportive community, working parents can feel less isolated and more motivated to tackle the challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities.

See also: The childcare crisis: Will a new Biden move prompt employers to step up? 

3. Help parents take advantage of flexible hours to better manage work and home responsibilities.

According to data published by ReadyNation, 55% of working parents have missed at least one full day of work due to childcare issues. Flexible work arrangements can be a game-changer for working parents, allowing them to better balance their work and home responsibilities. “Flex time” allows employees to have a flexible work schedule—provided they get approval from their manager. In this policy, any time off must be made up during the same week, meaning employees rearrange their hours to compensate. This policy helps ensure that the work is completed and the workload is balanced while allowing for doctor’s appointments, school meetings and unexpected family obligations. As with any family-focused benefits, employers that offer flex time increase morale and productivity, as well as improve working family retention.

4. Offer career development programs to build skills and enhance job security for working parents.

Employer-sponsored career development programs can offer working parents an opportunity to build their skills, advance in their careers and enhance job security. It is an investment on the employer’s behalf, and many use these programs to build a committed, skilled workforce. Often, they include training, workshops and mentoring programs that can be completed during work hours, making them an alternative to traditional nighttime college courses, as parents may not have the time for both work and school. Working parents can develop new skills and stay current in their field, which can increase their value to their employer and provide peace of mind around job concerns—a game-changer for those with the additional responsibilities of children.

5. Connect parents with referral networks for in-home daycares.

One way for working parents to manage the high cost of childcare is to explore referral services for in-home daycare networks. According to a U.S. Labor report, in-home daycare networks can be up to 40% more affordable than traditional daycare centers, making them a more accessible option for working parents. By utilizing these services, parents and guardians can find safe and reliable in-home daycare providers that meet their specific needs. Not only can this help reduce the financial burden of childcare, but it can also provide parents with a sense of community, knowing that their children are in a nurturing, home-like environment while at work.

6. Encourage employees to take a mental health day to prevent burnout, which is especially common among working moms.

Parents and guardians face unique challenges as they balance work and family life demands. Taking mental health days can be a practical first step to prioritizing self-care. By strategically taking time off from work, parents can engage in activities that help them relax, recharge and reconnect with their families. Mental health days can also help parents address any underlying issues contributing to their stress and can provide them the time to seek therapy. Again, considering it as an investment into their workforces, employers should encourage their working families to take mental health days as part of their overall wellness benefits, leading to a more productive and engaged team in the long term.