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7 Ways Back-to-School Disrupts Workplace Productivity

Patrick Ball on August 30, 2016 06:01 PM

Don't let back-to-school impact workplace productivity. 

It’s not true that back-to-school season is the most wonderful time of the year for parents. In fact, it can be a seriously stressful time for many working moms and dads.

From coordinating pickup and drop-off times that don’t jive with the workday, to scrambling to secure after-school sitters, parents have a lot on their plate during back-to-school season. Like, a lot. And when you layer it on top of their responsibilities at work, these personal pressures often impact productivity.

According to a survey, 51 percent of working parents say the back-to-school season interferes with their work. More than 40 percent of parents say they have to go to work late and leave work early as a result of the transition to a new school year, and 44 percent admit they fequently or often feel distracted at work during the back-to-school season.

In today’s landscape where dual-working families are less the exception than the rule, it’s moms and dads dealing with back-to-school disruptions. With that in mind, here are 7 common back-to-school challenges working parents face – and some advice for how to limit their impact on your workplace.

  1. Adjusting to a New Morning Routine
    Conquering the morning commute is a tall task even when you’re not making sure kids eat breakfast, don’t forget their lunch and make the bus on time. Add the morning madness inherent to the start of a new school year and a 9 a.m. conference call can feel like a welcome reprieve. Coordinating coverage to get the kids ready for school without being late for work is a common challenge among families this time of year. Being able to do it all without getting stuck behind the bus line can be the difference between starting the day on the right or wrong foot.

  2. Homework, Testing and Tutors
    Do you remember the quadratic equation? Your employees probably don’t either. So when the kids need help with hours of homework, perfecting a huge science project or prepping for those all-important standardized tests, it can be a challenge for parents as well as the kids. Hiring a tutor is one option to get the kid the help he or she needs, but that doesn’t always ease the emotional discomfort of watching your child struggle with schoolwork.

  3. Sick Days, Snow Days and Professional Development
    For many parents, kids being in school means not having to worry about who’s looking after them for at least a few hours every day. But what happens when school’s closed unexpectedly? According to our latest Cost of Care survey, 74 percent of parents say their jobs have been impacted when child care plans have fallen through. The most common ways their work is impacted is having to use a sick day (78 percent), falling behind on work (37 percent) or even losing a day’s pay (28 percent).

    RELATED: 15 Times When Working Parents Need Backup Child Care

  4. Extracurricular Activity Schedules
    Soccer practice. Science club. A play date at Lilly’s. Sometimes it feels like extracurricular activity schedules fill up faster than your inbox. School sports, enrichment and social activities are fantastic for kids, but those 3:30 junior varsity field hockey games can be a real challenge for working parents. For many, this means relying on your sitter as a chauffeur, leaving work early or missing games on the regular. Whichever way you slice it, say hello to the mom and dad guilt.

  5. Nervous Kiddos
    From the apprehensive pre-schooler to the senioritis-stricken 17-year-olds struggling with standardized tests, sometimes just getting kids back to school can take its toll on parents. Worrying about your children’s back-to-school anxieties can be a huge distraction for working parents who are trying to be present and engaged in their work and home lives. In fact, a member poll recently found that more than half of parents worry about their children every minute of the day.

  6. Finding After-School Care
    Do you know what an after-school sitter costs? $214 on average, according to’s 2016 Cost of Care survey and report. And what about one that speaks Mandarin and can double as a homework helper? Finding the perfect (affordable) after-school sitter is a serious challenge for working parents. The search for that caregiver – combing through resumes, conducting interviews and reference checks – can be an arduous task that bleeds into the workday. But if you can help your employees with their search through providing child care assistance benefits, it can help take a load off those working moms and dads during the stressful back-to-school season.

    RELATED: 5 Family-Friendly Benefits to Consider When Child Care Isn't an Option

  7. Staying On Top of It All
    If there’s one time of year the chief household officer really needs an executive assistant, this is it. Perhaps the biggest of all back-to-school stressors is simply staying organized. You need to know who goes where when, what they need and more. Without having solid systems, schedules and organization in place, last-minute science projects, misplaced permission slips and forgotten lunches can pile up fast, becoming a disruption for children and parents alike. And just when you think you’ve gotten it under control, it’s time to start dealing with the unexpected, like the flu running through elementary school or when your sophomore starts acting sophomoric and winds up in detention.

From an employer’s perspective, many of the back-to-school stresses and distractions translate into absenteeism, presenteeism and general lost productivity. When an employee’s life is disrupted outside of work, it can often impact his or her performance in the office.

So what can you to support employees struggling with back-to-school challenges?

  • Be flexible around when and where employees do their work. This can help them ease into the school-year routine by providing some extra time in the mornings and even letting them make a few more after-school games or recitals.

  • Provide family-care benefits through a platform like care@work that will help employees find the after-school sitters, tutors and backup care providers their family needs to thrive during the school year. Care@Work clients have found that using in-home and center-based backup care solutions allow employees to work several more days a year by providing reliable care when their ordinary plans fall through.

Remember, when a company can help to mitigate external influences, they’re often rewarded with more present, engaged and loyal employees.

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