Hi, Employers: Three Things Working Parents Want You to Know About the Holidays

Happy Holidays, Josie community!  Or should we say holi-“daze”?  As wonderful as this season can be, it can be equally as stressful for working caregivers who may notice an increase in demands for their attention (kids home from school, family requests) on top of the additional responsibilities that come with the season (buying gifts, cooking, finances, maintaining current workload…does this list actually end?). Balancing professional and personal responsibilities can directly impact working caregivers’ ability to be present and productive at work.  But that means there is a huge opportunity for employers to both recognize and support caregiver employees during this time of year – not only to help alleviate the added stressors, but also build loyalty from this critical part of the workforce.

Here’s more good news: there are simple, yet meaningful steps employers can take to seize this opportunity.  A solid first step?  Simply building an understanding of what the challenges may be.  Recognition and empathy go a long way.  And we’re here to help.

Here are 3 things your working parent population wants you to know – but may not always feel comfortable sharing:

School closures don’t align to company holidays. 

This one may seem obvious but it is often overlooked.  There are a lot of school closures around the holidays.  And while some parents may be able to use available vacation days to provide care, many others are scrambling to find (trusted) childcare options and must budget for the added expense.  This leads to pressure from several angles: financial, emotional, mental.  For employers and people leaders, some ideas for how you can show support:

  • If you manage a working parent, simply acknowledging that it’s difficult shows that you care. Try saying “when the kids are off of school this time of year it, it’s really hard!” or, “finding trusted childcare options right now can be challenging.  How can I help?”
  • Find quick and easy ways to remind team members of available supports. With Open Enrollment behind us, it’s time to make sure employees are made aware of the programs and benefits they can take advantage of.  For example, if you have a backup childcare resource, maybe send a 30-second video reminder with directions on how to sign up.  Often, the timing of communicating benefits is as important (if not more) than the messaging itself!
  • Offering flexibility around working hours (such as start and end times) demonstrates that you trust your employees to get their work done. It can allow employees to adjust their schedules to fit the needs of their family responsibilities and the flexibility to manage caregiving responsibilities that may come up (i.e., a classroom celebration).
  • Genuinely encourage taking time off. It may not always be possible to adjust workloads, but one way to help could be to prioritize the most important tasks. Leading by example is critical, especially around taking time off. If managers work late or do not utilize company PTO or holiday breaks, employees can feel pressured to do the same. Additionally, as some employees may feel uncomfortable asking for time off, it could be helpful to explicitly encourage employees to do so. Try saying something like “I am excited to unplug over the next few days and recharge for the new year. I won’t be checking email but feel free to text me if you need anything!”

Holiday work parties are fun and we don’t want to miss out.

One of the best parts about the holidays are the opportunities to celebrate with colleagues and socialize outside the work setting.  Often these events take place after 9 – 5 working hours, when parents typically need to pick up children from school / day care.  What it can lead to is some major F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) – not only from the fun and socialization, but also from the networking opportunities these events afford.  Some ideas to help out:

  • Proactively remind working parents of any available childcare benefits your company offers a month or so before the event. Even better:  include a link to the resources in the body of the event invitation or email.  You could go a step further and offer a small discount to encourage parents to join in on the team bonding.
  • Consider starting your event a bit earlier in the day and give teams plenty of time to plan around it. Starting at 3PM would give parents a chance to participate for a few hours before childcare pickup, and/or reduce their expenses for child care coverage.
  • Final idea: arrange for childcare at your event site for a few hours to allow parents the chance to participate with the comfort of knowing their kid is nearby and in good hands.

Seeing family is great, but also comes with a lot of judgement.

While this season is often filled with joyful gatherings, for many parents it also means facing the unsolicited “feedback” on parenting styles from family members.  On top of the copious amounts of comparison traps that parents contend with almost daily (largely driven by social media), the holidays can create the perfect storm of judgments on how you are raising your children.  So, how can you help?

  • Share your own experiences with comparison traps or dealing with parenting opinions from others. It doesn’t have to be a long-winded story – it can be as simple as “the grandparents are always telling me I don’t feed my kids the right foods.  It makes me second guess myself, but I know I’m giving them what they need!”  These small comments are powerful and help others feel less alone.
  • It can be challenging for working parents to compartmentalize holiday stress and judgement. Hold space and offer empathy for people before and/or after they take time off. Encouraging employees to step off the desk for a coffee or go for a walk during lunch can positively impact productivity upon their return.

Remember:  simply acknowledging that this can be a hectic time of year and sharing your own experiences is a great first step and gift you can give to your working parent employees this season.

Whatever this time of year brings, we hope that you are able to slow down and enjoy the magic. We at Josie hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

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