6 Ways Companies Are Supporting Parents Working From Home

 

Working parents have always pulled double duty, and COVID-19 has only increased the pressure many are under. A recent Boston Consulting Group study of working parents across five countries in Europe and the U.S. revealed that 60% were not able to find alternative care following school and daycare closures. This has resulted in parents spending an additional 27 hours each week on household chores, childcare, and education, on top of what they were doing previously — which is roughly the equivalent of working a second job.

Recognizing the strain this is putting on employees with families at home, many companies are taking steps to ease some of the burdens. Where possible, this includes offering paid parental leave and providing more flexibility around work schedules. But some are also doing whatever they can to keep employees’ kids entertained — giving their hard-working moms and dads a well-deserved break. 

Here are some of the most creative and impactful ways companies are supporting working parents on their teams:

1. Stamps.com hosts activities like virtual magic shows, petting zoos, and character lunches

Stamps.com, which provides internet-based mailing and shipping services, has created a number of programs designed to encourage its employees and the employees of its subsidiary companies to practice self-care while they work from home. This includes programs that can help parents balance their personal and professional responsibilities, including meditation and mindfulness classes, and sessions with a nutritionist covering topics like helping kids snack healthily.

The company has also found a way to deliver kid-friendly entertainment straight to parents’ living rooms. Working with external partners like Alakazoom and Tiny Tails to You, Stamps.com has hosted digital magic shows and even a virtual petting zoo (minus the actual petting). The goal is to give families something to look forward to that breaks up the monotony of staying at home.

For Andrea McFarling, VP of marketing at ShipStation, which is part of the Stamps.com family, these programs have made a huge difference to her and her family. 

"Right now, I play two roles during the workday,” she says. “I lead my team and I entertain my 5-year old daughter who is at home with me. It's not easy. The activities hosted by ShipStation and Stamps.com not only allow my daughter to feel included in my daily routine, but they demonstrate the company's commitment to family and employee health."

Andrea’s daughter was especially impressed with one event hosted by the parent company: a virtual lunch with Queen Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. 

2. Twitter, Sun Life U.S., Superdrug, and RPS Group created online activities and educational resources

In previous years, parents may have had some time to themselves during summer months as their kids went off to summer camp. Twitter is replicating that experience virtually with a free eight-week program designed to keep employees’ kids occupied and happy.

Dubbed “Camp Twitter,” the program includes a variety of live and on-demand activities and classes on topics chosen by parents, such as cooking and music. Parents also have the option to attend live stream webinars led by psychologists and health experts and can access one-on-one guidance if they need it. 

“We recognize the added pressure and responsibility parents have taken on at home during this unprecedented time,” says Tracy Hawkins, VP of real estate and remote experience at Twitter. “With many schools and summer camps being closed due to the pandemic, we wanted to step in and provide a fun, educational and meaningful alternative that is accessible to all of our parents around the world.”

Financial services firm Sun Life U.S. has also created its own virtual summer camp by partnering with the Boston Children’s Museum. Called Explore It, the program includes learning modules for children ages 4-10, focusing on themes like imagination, outer space, water, and the human body.

“Employee mental health and wellbeing is just as important to us as physical health,” says David Healy, the company’s senior vice president of group benefits. “We hope that our employees and their kids will be able to enjoy summer at home more with these activities.”

In the UK, health and beauty retailer Superdrug is taking a similar approach — launching fun activities to keep employees’ kids entertained. This has included an Easter art competition and a sunflower growing initiative. Employees can also find advice and tips on topics like helping kids stay active via the company’s comms platform and wellbeing network. 

Professional services firm RPS, meanwhile, recently launched a new program called “Families@RPS” to help its Australia Asia Pacific team strike the right balance between work and family life. In partnership with the organization's Parents at Work, the program gives working parents access to a range of services, including education offerings, through a specialist online learning platform.

3. Vox Media holds daily storytime sessions, including stories read by the CEO

Many family-friendly activities are incredibly low-cost. As the parent-focused employee resource group (ERG) at Vox Media found, sometimes all you need is a book. 

Back in March, the digital media company took to hosting a daily storytime for employee’s kids. Even CEO Jim Bankoff got in on the fun, reading stories (and telling dad jokes) during a memorable session.

Vox Media has also compiled a list of recommendations for at-home activities that parents might find useful. These include virtual museum tours and free online classes. 

4. Parents at LinkedIn are swapping activity ideas and finding tutoring support from peers

At many companies, employees are banding together to swap tried-and-true advice and share ideas for kid-approved activities. To facilitate these conversations, the Parents at LinkedIn (PAL) ERG created a closed LinkedIn group that serves as a global forum for LinkedIn employees to swap ideas.

“Within a matter of a few days, we had 1,500 global members,” says Timea Bara, senior manager of global sales readiness and former global co-lead of the PAL ERG. This included "colleagues from LinkedIn who are either parents, caregivers or aunts and uncles sharing their everyday life, parenting hacks, helpful resources, etc.”

It’s not just parents getting involved. Some LinkedIn employees have offered tutoring support to coworkers with children to help take some of the weight off their shoulders. This has helped to strengthen team bonds, while also giving parents a much-needed break. 

5. GitLab invites children to take over for their parents at the end of meetings

While GitLab employees have always been remote, many have had to adjust to working with kids at home. 

One simple way the company is supporting these working parents is by inviting them to let their kids take over if a meeting ends early.

“People will throw out, ‘Anyone has kids home from school who want to chat with my kids?’” Darren Murph, head of remote at GitLab, told CNBC

This creates opportunities for children to meet other kids all around the world, learn about life in other countries, and potentially make new friends. Plus, their parents get a few minutes to themselves while their kids are chatting.

In addition to these informal moments, GitLab hosts weekly “family and friends” meetings. Parents can jump on these video conferencing calls to share tips around homeschooling and similar topics. 

6. Skyscanner introduced a 3-hour company-wide break to allow parents to spend time with kids

While their kids are at home, parents often have to fit essential childcare duties around deadlines and conference calls. To make this juggling act a little easier, Skyscanner, a metasearch engine and travel agency based in Scotland, has instituted a company-wide break in the afternoon.

Between 12pm and 3pm, employees are encouraged to stop working and step away from the keyboard. This allows parents to spend time homeschooling or just spending quality time with their kids without interruption. It also allows all employees to come back to take a relaxing lunch break and come back refreshed.

The last few months have made it clear that working parents are superheroes. But even superheroes need help sometimes.

If you haven’t checked in with parents on your team recently, consider dropping them a note to see how they’re feeling and if there’s anything they need. Whether it’s offering more flexibility or creating a space where parents can swap ideas, any support you can offer will be appreciated.