Covid-19 has created many challenges but the biggest question on every organization’s mind right now is: How do we support caregivers and create a culture that normalizes the need to take care of our families?
As we head into our sixth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations across the country are building thoughtful plans for their employees who are parents or caregivers in the hopes of creating a workplace that is not only tolerant, but also supportive of work/life demands.
At our fifth Future of (how we) Work Task Force meeting we met with a group of decision makers to share ideas and find solutions to the challenges of childcare in the time of COVID-19. This meeting had far fewer men in attendance compared to previous meetings. This issue, which disproportionately impacts women, is critical to making sure that we don’t backslide against the professional and cultural progress we have made. The goal of our meeting was to create dialogue, and exchange and spark new ideas so that we all can take steps in the right direction to build a workplace which includes caregiver culture. The conversation uncovered several essential considerations from the field, including:
- Mitigating stigma and coaching employees on self-advocacy overall, but especially around caregiving needs.
- The major challenge for caregivers is at-home learning. School-aged children may need additional support from parents when at-home learning begins, and with school policies in flux, those demands might change day to day.
- As each employee struggles with the challenges of balancing the demands of home and work, it is critical for managers to focus on what is possible rather than what is not.
- Creating a culture of empathy is important, especially since other groups of employees who do not have children may not understand the challenges and can feel frustrated or left out.
There are four ways that Kendall employers are adopting strategies to support employees: shifting culture, direct financial support, time and flexibility, and new benefits.
“This moment has become as much about redefining culture as it is about childcare. How do we show empathy? How do we come to solutions together? We are working to equip managers and employees with the tools they need to have meaningful conversations about availability, childcare, and in between because there is no rulebook right now.”Sally Johnson, Global Lead, People Engagement & Operations, Novartis
Time & Flexibility
“I think the biggest thing that companies can provide is flexibility. Everyone has such different circumstances and needs it is tough to find a one size fits all solution beyond this. We’ve gone to a seven-day work week to allow for personalized work schedules and will continue to evaluate other flexible work options based on feedback from our working caregivers.”Adam Thomas, Chief People Officer, Synlogic
New Benefits Programs
“We knew we had to think creatively to provide our community with caregiving solutions as a large percentage of our workforce are caring for children under the age of 13, and others expressed a variety of caregiving challenges. As summer jobs and internships evaporated due to Covid-19, we saw the potential for our community to support one another. We developed the Sarepta In Person Babysitter Match Program to pair Sarepta families together who were seeking caregivers with those who could offer caregiving services. We also learned that there were a variety of options to consider such as traditional in person care, virtual care, and tutoring services. Following feedback from employees and informed by our research, we quickly launched a menu of caregiving options for our employees that included Care.com, SitterStream Virtual Babysitting, and Tutor.com.”Alison Nasisi, Senior Director, Total Rewards, Sarepta Therapeutics
“We opened a high-testing, daycare in partnership with Bright Horizons for all our staff to support childcare needs this summer. We had over 30 people sign up within the first hour. We tested our teachers and families and then followed heightened safety standards including breaking students into pods to keep everyone safe. Now 10 weeks in, we’ve created a safe childcare environment, supported parents to return to work, and most importantly given children a normal day.”Frances Brooks Taplett, Chief People Officer, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Some providers that were discussed include: Care.com, SitterStream, and Tutor.com. In order to avoid stigma, some employers have rolled all of their new benefits into one “COVID-19 crisis response package” including increased mental health support, caregiving support, and increased paid time off and flexibility.
We’ve connected with several Kendall organizations who are offering financial stipends to support childcare costs. Understanding that childcare and tutoring costs are now much higher than before, this cash benefit to caregivers will help employees get one step closer to receiving the care they need.
Childcare is one of the biggest issues facing our workforce in the best of times. In the context of this pandemic, it is a problem that employers must address with urgency, empathy, and creativity. The springtime was a scramble, but this summer gave us the opportunity to take stock and develop smarter approaches. A chief priority among these must be that we stop leaning so heavily on mothers to source and provide caregiving. The progress women have made in the workplace will backslide if we are not conscious of communicating the expectation that caregivers–regardless of gender–will be supported during these trying times. If we make progress on this, we will find that the pandemic actually made our organizations stronger and more resilient.