School is starting, but for most of America, the schoolroom is your kitchen. How do you keep all the balls up in the air and moving? Right now, parents are caught between a rock and the hardest place, challenged with supporting their kids’ immediate needs while also recognizing that their future is reliant on their continued employment.
Supermom? Superdad? How do you do it all? Employers need to step up, big time, to support working parents right now.
There is already a strong precedent for companies providing parental benefits, like maternity/paternity bonuses or scholarships for college-bound kids. Similarly, numerous organizations already include on-site childcare and financial support for families.
Why not reallocate some of those funds by setting up company-sponsored distance learning support by providing tutors? Most school districts moving forward with remote learning will have structured lessons, but lots of things slip through the cracks. Even before COVID, companies like SAS and Google have fostered in-office daycares. Companies can morph these types of benefits into robust in-home learning-support programs.
Alternatively, rather than paying each family a stipend for at-home tutors or educators, companies could hire one tutor for multiple children of employees, or set up learning pods based on grade level. This educator could virtually conduct classes, provide homework help, or act as an activity/craft leader. If a company is relatively local, it could hire an at-home educator for in-person small-pod learning.
“That Sounds Expensive”
Employers may take one look at the idea of sponsored learning and think: That sounds as expensive!
But if companies view their employees as an investment in growth and prosperity, the cost becomes an easy pill to swallow. Companies like Bank of America, Microsoft, and Accenture have already begun providing pod learning — small-group, part-time, school-day supervision”at a heavily subsidized discounted price.
Meanwhile, a less expensive alternative could be to provide support to families doing the teaching on their own by offering a day or two a month of leave so that they may uphold the rotation of parents providing pod learning.
Either way, such pod-learning opportunities can save companies money on childcare stipends and provide an in-person place for children to learn and interact, as well as free parents of childcare duties. Seems like a win-win.
A Gray Area
Of course, the idea of company-sanctioned education could begin to fall into a gray area. Who is approving the curriculum? What kind of education philosophy should the teacher follow? Montessori? Magnet? Waldorf? What qualifies one to be an at-home educator? Will this contribute to the already wide education gap? What about children with special needs?
Fair questions, but the focus right now should be on what is the path of least resistance — because the status quo in today’ challenging times is not working. Furthermore, corporate-funded education does not have to be a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Rather, it can be a creative way to support employees maneuvering this new environment..
A Step Further
Companies could also take it a step further by funding a home office for parents. Children require boundaries to thrive. One of the things that makes working from home so difficult for parents is that their children have access to them 24/7. It can be helpful to have a designated home office that becomes off-limits to children during the day. Assisting workers in setting up a home office by providing monitors, internet boosters, and high-quality headsets could go a long way toward minimizing distraction.
Everyone is working without a real net these days. We are in uncharted territory. The most successful leaders are those who rise to the challenge and get creative in coming up with solutions. So listen to your people, work through individual issues, and build a caring company brand.