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Flexibility for Working Parents: Four Ways to Help Caregivers Hold Down the Fort and Hold Down Their Jobs

Flexibility for Working Parents: Four Ways to Help Caregivers Hold Down the Fort and Hold Down Their Jobs
Posted on Tuesday, February 14, 2023 by Marcy Klipfel

Working parents are doing their best to raise healthy children in a chaotic world. Employers are rising to the occasion—here’s how.

Many well-known companies are making headlines for pushing—and in some cases mandating—a return to the office. While C-suite leaders at these companies may cite a lack of collaboration, camaraderie, and even productivity, employees have made it loud and clear that they value flexible work.

In fact, a Deloitte survey found 94% of workers said they would benefit from workplace flexibility, with the top gains being less stress, improved mental health, and better integration of work and personal life.

Working parents and caregivers are at the front of the line when it comes to needing better integration of work and home life.

Research from McKinsey & Company found that parents were more likely to have left their jobs since the start of the pandemic than their nonparent colleagues, and women with children were significantly more likely than men to leave their jobs.

At the end of 2022, the U.S. labor force reported the loss of more than one million women from the workforce since February 2020.

In 2022, 40% of parents said they were open to or actively seeking new jobs, and roughly 60% have taken or have considered taking a career break due to childcare needs.

While the pandemic may be behind us, the need for workplace flexibility is still very real.

In 2022, working parents dealt with an unprecedented formula shortage along with record inflation that increased the cost of everything—food, diapers, gas, and childcare. Then, the fall and winter brought a “tri-demic” of RSV, COVID-19, and the flu. The outbreak was so severe that the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics called on the federal government to declare a state of emergency.

This rollercoaster over the last three years has left caregivers of all ages, from young kids to elderly parents, feeling burned out and worrying what’s next.

Stress costs employers $4.7 billion per week in lost productivity for U.S. companies.

What working parents and caregivers need is some extra help holding down the fort while holding down their jobs.

Providing latitude in working arrangements is a great starting point for employers, along with a reevaluation of their benefits offerings, including childcare, mental health, dependent care, and financial wellness programs. In fact, 75% of employees think more choices in benefits would reduce their stress and improve their financial wellness.

Here are a few ways employers can help support working parents and caregivers, many of which are top talent and in their prime working years:

  1. Flexibility: From fully remote to hybrid work, flexible hours, and even job sharing, employers can support caregivers by considering non-traditional working arrangements. Our annual 2022 State of the Workplace Empathy Study reveals that 76% of all employees would prefer a hybrid work schedule that lets them choose whether to work from the office or home.
  2. Childcare: Parents are raising the bar on childcare benefits. A 2022 national study by KinderCare found that parents expect more childcare support from employers (and the government). From subsidized tuition to employer onsite childcare and even subsidizing at-home care, thinking outside the traditional childcare box can help employees maintain flexibility while helping employers retain talent.
  3. Mental health: Working parents are burned out, overwhelmed, and stressed. For 59% of parents, stress levels reached an all-time high in 2022. Now is the time to remind employees of their mental health benefits and encourage them to use them through communications that drive awareness while helping employees know how to navigate their way to help. For example, SofiaSM, our virtual benefits assistant, can provide timely answers when an employee searches for “doctor for depression” or a similar request. She can also direct employees to additional benefits options, such as telemedicine, nurse line, or EAP programs.
  4. Financial wellness: Financial wellbeing is front of mind with up to 7 in 10 Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Now is the time for employers to evaluate just how well their financial wellness programs are helping employees build savings and pay down debt. Likewise, employers should look to decision support to help employees optimize their benefits selections while helping their hard-earned dollars go further. Businessolver data shows that employees are three times more likely to elect a cost-effective health plan and savings vehicle, such as a health saving account (HSA), when they have decision support at the time of enrollment.

Work-life balance will never be perfect for working parents, but employers play a large role in helping to make it better. Not only is flexibility foremost to achieving improved employee wellness for caregivers, but from a benefits perspective, it’s one of the cheapest benefits employers can offer—especially when stacked against the rising cost of healthcare.

An invigorating communication strategy can help close the gaps for employees, connecting them directly to their benefits and other resources.