Working parents are feeling the pressure and strain of the new school year which has been impacted by the pandemic. FlexJobs surveyed more than 2,5000 parents with children ages 18 and younger living at home. Almost half have needed to change their employment situation by either voluntarily reducing their hours or quitting entirely. 

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Many schools around the country have decided to open only remotely or use a hybrid approach. After a stressful spring, working parents found themselves trying to balance their career and childcare responsibilities in unprecedented ways. 

Working parents said having a flexible schedule (58%) would have the greatest impact on their ability to juggle career, distance learning, and childcare responsibilities. The survey also found that working mothers and working fathers report different experiences around changes to their employment, childcare, and distance learning responsibilities as a result of the pandemic.

“For moms, dads, employers, and the workforce at large, these findings offer insights into what it’s really like to juggle parenting and a career, and how flexible work options (or the lack thereof) can impact decision-making,” said Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. “In order to help working parents not only stay in the workforce, but also be productive employees during this challenging time, employers should absolutely consider offering flexible schedules. When executed thoughtfully, giving employees more control over when they’re able to work during the day can help create the critical space they need to meet all their competing demands. The pandemic has really forced companies to see the struggles that working parents and other caregivers routinely face and hopefully has shed light on just how impactful granting remote and flexible work accommodations can be,” Sutton concluded.

Regardless of the challenges, about half of working mothers (49%) and half of working fathers (50%) still say they have been more productive working from home during the pandemic than when they were in the traditional office.

To help parents manage working from home and their children’s virtual learning responsibilities, FlexJobs offers the following tips:

  1. Communicate expectations with your team and let them know about your reality.  Some flexible work conversation starters:
  • To talk with your boss or coworkers: I want to share my current reality to give everyone a solid understanding and try to stay ahead of any potential problems.
  • To ask for more flexibility: I’d like to get a good sense of what my flexible work options are right now. The more I’m able to shift my schedule, the better I’ll be able to meet work priorities and stay productive during this time. 
  • For the beginning of meetings: As is the case with a lot of you, I’m working from home and caring for my ____ and ___ year old kids. I wanted to give you a heads up that I may get interrupted during our call but I’ll let you know, mute myself, deal with the situation, and jump back in.
  1. Let your boss know your new responsibilities with remote learning and ask for flexibility in your schedule. Prioritize the “live” classroom sessions as must-attend, and try to be close by when your kids are on them.
  2. Split-shift the workday. If you have a partner who can work at home, split childcare and work shifts with each other. That way, each day you each will have a designated time for work and a designated time for being with your kids. 
  3. Develop a focused learning space for your kid(s). For example, use a tri-fold display board to section off their workspace.
  4. Secure the fastest internet speed. This is important when there are multiple users at home simultaneously online. Use a plugin connection to the internet when possible.
  5. Recreate what your child’s classroom would have had with schedules, visual cues, binders, bins, etc. 
  6. Consider printing worksheets when possible. Most kids like the physical action of doing the work.
  7. Give yourself a break. This situation is extremely difficult and stressful, and no one will do it perfectly.  Working from home with kids is not what remote work is normally like. Outside of this unusual situation, most remote workers have regular childcare.

Additional tips and resources for working remotely during the upcoming school year are available in a free recorded webinar hosted by FlexJobs and K12, available here: https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/distance-learning-tips-parents-webinar/.

—Jennifer Swartvagher

Featured photo: Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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