Back to School Stress: What Can Organizations Do to Help Employees Integrate Busy Lives with Busy Jobs?

By Amy Lankenau McPherson and Deb Phillips

Diagram of Organizations, Children and SchoolsWe are well into Back to School Season and it’s an adjustment for everyone.  We tend to focus on how children are adjusting to the new schedule and expectations, but we also need to pay attention to the transition for working parents.  Just a lot of changes in a short period of time:  new schedules, new demands, new teachers, new friends, new activities – and the list goes on – while job responsibilities and work commitments are ramping back up after the summer vacation season.

Daisy Wademan Dowling, Founder & CEO, Workparent talks about “how parents can survive back to school season” and offers some survival techniques. 

By framing this time as a time of surviving, Dowling offers strategic suggestions for what working parents can actually DO to ease the transition for themselves – focusing on navigating life and work and home.

PBS suggests some strategies and guidelines for working parents integrating with school personnel and teachers.

Another area to focus on during this time is what managers and organizations can do to support working families during this specific transition and throughout the career life-cycle such as:

Autonomy to Integrate Work and Personal Responsibilities:  During this time especially, managers can leverage workplace flexibility policies and programs to support their employees dealing with routine changes such as new pick up/drop off times and unanticipated school events.  We all know that managers are the lynch pin for employee loyalty and engagement.  The manager is the lens through which the employee experiences the workplace.  Reasonable give and take on the part of managers and employees during this stressful time of year can go a long way towards enhancing the employee experience and commitment throughout the rest of the year when schedules and demands become more routine.

Recognizing Outside Commitments for All Employees:  Working parents are not the only employees with outside-of-work demands on their time and energy.  Managers can create a supportive and inclusive workplace, and improve employee morale, by being clear that integrating work and personal responsibilities is something all employees need at one time or another and workplace supports are not limited to working parents.  By fostering communication and support within the team, managers play a key role in encouraging team flexibility, where the reason doesn’t matter so long as the work gets done without negatively impacting others. 

Parents certainly have challenges as they and their children adjust to the new school year, but there are ways employees, managers and organizations can make this time a bit easier.  Does your organization provide the policies and programs that help employees integrate busy lives with busy jobs?  And more importantly, do managers and supervisors leverage the policies, programs and benefits to create a workplace where everyone can thrive, even when external changes, like going back-to-school, happen?







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