Back to School: How Work Flexibility Can Make or Break Working Parents

It is difficult juggling parenting and working full time. When schools are closed, many parents have to take off from work, whether it is because they can’t afford alternative childcare or it is simply unavailable. The Center for American Progress reports that such schedules’ misalignments result in a loss in productivity of as much as $55 billion yearly! 

Working women are hit particularly hard. Women with school-aged children have lower full-time employment rates, with mothers of elementary-school-age children being impacted the most. Compared to mothers of middle- and high-school-age children, one million fewer mothers of elementary-school-age children are working full-time, a yearly economic productivity cost of $35 billion. This issue disproportionately affects working parents of color and in low-income communities, who are more likely to hold hourly shift jobs, with their work hours being much less flexible than those with higher incomes. Having a lower income also means that they are less financially able to cover the costs of emergency childcare. 

Nearly half of all workers report not having any form of flexibility in their work schedules. With so many people underemployed or not working due to family obligations, companies are missing out on a critical talent pool. 

One possible solution: providing more schedule flexibility for working parents.

Flexible Hours
Many workplaces follow a 9 to 5 schedule, but school often ends earlier; usually around 2 or 3 p.m. Although after school programs and babysitters are viable options, the costs can stack up. In fact, less than half of American elementary schools offer before and after-school care and when they do, it’s not affordable. One solution: allow employees to come in and leave earlier. For example, a working parent could opt to work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., enabling them to drop off and pick up their kids from school. Parents don’t have to worry about who is picking up the kids and businesses can secure and retain skilled workers.

Sick Days
Kids get sick, A LOT (upwards of five to six colds a year). It’s inevitable and unpredictable, making planning for time-off nearly impossible. To manage, working parents are left to rely on family or friends who are ready, willing, and able to provide care at the drop of a hat. Consider updating your sick-time policy to allow workers to take sick time without explaining if it is for them or their child, as is legally allowed in 11 states

In a 2012 Mott poll, one-third of working parents said they fear losing their job if they take sick days for their kids. A University of New Hampshire study found that it is not always in a company’s best interest to penalize employees for taking time off for their children. Their study concluded that employers who offered paid sick days for sick children enjoyed higher employee retention, higher job satisfaction, and increased productivity. 

Remote Work
With the abundance of technological solutions at our fingertips, successfully managing a remote workforce is easier than ever before. Allowing parents to work from home, even just part of the time, enables them to get their work done while also keeping an eye on their children during school breaks and early dismissals. Not convinced remote work is productive? A Gallup survey from 2016 reports a 4 percent increase since 2012 in the number of Americans who work remotely at least part of the time. To stay competitive as an employer, it's imperative companies get onboard. An added benefit: allowing your working parents to work remotely helps them off-set the high costs of childcare. According to a survey, the national average weekly cost for solely after-school care is a whopping $244. 

Remote work also boosts productivity by saving time. A Stanford study on remote work found that participants who worked from home saved time by avoiding a commute and by being able to take care of personal or family matters without leaving work early or having to take the whole day off. This extra time resulted in a 20 to 30 percent in increased productivity for the firm that participated in the study. 

How have your company’s benefits changed to accommodate working parents? Let us know by emailing