The Flu, the Common Cold, and COVID-19: Employers Brace for a New Round of Workplace Absences

The final quarter of 2020 is shaping up to be unlike any other. With schools across the nation unable to open during the pandemic, many parents are helping their children navigate digital platforms and classrooms, and are also fearful about what this means for their professional lives. Others who are able to send their children to school in person worry about taking an extended amount of time off if their child becomes ill.

For employers, preparing for the inevitable interruptions that COVID-19 can cause, and ensuring parents understand their leave rights as well as the employer’s time-off policies is vital to keeping workers engaged and minimizing employee turnover. Here are a few ideas for how to do that.

Throw out the Traditional 9-5

What employers need to realize in this unprecedented time is that the days of work-life balance are over, and right now, work-life integration is what parents really need, particularly as the list of employers who have announced permanent Work-From-Home policies continues to expand.

Due to this dynamic, now is the best time to let go of the traditional schedule and allow parents the flexibility they need to manage both family and work responsibilities. Establishing clear communication about what is expected is vital to a company’s workflow. Ensuring those who are working from home have a clear process for communicating their schedule on a day-to-day basis with their team helps parents of young children manage their own schedules and still get the work done.

Positive Company Culture

In these unprecedented times, positivity in the workplace is crucial to a business’s success. Creating an environment where employees feel they can openly share the struggles they are facing will help them better navigate the work-from-home-while-helping-my-child-with-virtual-learning situation.

“Working parents are combatting insurmountable challenges and impossible choices during the pandemic,” said Lorraine Hariton, President & CEO of Catalyst. “We know some companies have stepped up in big ways to support parents during this time, but as this crisis continues, many of these strategies are fraying. As Hariton emphasize, it’s essential that employers view this as an opportunity to lead, rethink how work gets done, and take action to find creative ways to give employees the support they need.”

Be Proactive About Questions

According to a new survey of 1,000 working parents across the nation, 57% fear that they will be the first group to be negatively impacted by an employer’s HR decisions, with four in ten parents reporting they have less job security now than they did before the pandemic. In fact, 42% reported that they fear taking advantage of employer childcare offerings available to them because it would put their employment at risk. Furthermore, an additional 33% of those surveyed said they are not aware of plans for helping parents at their company – or that they simply do not exist.

The biggest thing employers can do for employees at this time is to be as flexible as possible with scheduling and interruptions to the normal daily workflow. If parents are forced to choose between working and keeping their family safe, many are going to choose safety – which leaves your company with a position to fill. Since the cost of replacing top talent can be exponential, employers are better off working out a flexible schedule with employees during this time to improve both their bottom line – and their reputation.

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