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Better Benefits to Help Working Parents Struggling with Back-to-School

Patrick Ball on August 19, 2015 12:31 PM

More than half of working parent say back-to-school season interferes with work, according to a new survey of members.

Showing up late, leaving early, feeling distracted and scrambling for backup child care are just a few of the ways parents say back-to-school worries and responsibilities impact their job performance. And these work interruptions can be costly for employers, as absenteeism, presenteeism and other lost productivity costs amount to huge lost productivity costs.

But with the right systems in place, employers can help minimize the impact of back-to-school worries on working parents – and their own bottom line.

With summer winding down, we’re taking a more detailed look at how back-to-school impacts working parents’ job performance, as well as how companies can help solve some of these issues through employee benefits that address family and household care needs.

How Back-to-School Affects Working Parents

Absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as concerns about perception, are among the biggest ways working parents said back-to-school affects them at work.

  • 51% of working parents say back to school interferes with work
  • 43%of respondents who said back-to-school interferes with work said they have to go to work late and leave early
  • 44% of working parents say they frequently or often feel distracted during back to school
  • 44% of working parents worry their boss and/or colleagues will think they’re not committed when their work schedule is affected due to parental responsibilities 

Unfortunately, the school day and the workday aren’t always in sync. The normal routine of making sure you get the kids to school in the morning and home or to their activities in the afternoon can be difficult for a parent who works a traditional in-office 9-to-5 job. And then you can add the occasional calls from the nurse’s (or principal’s) office, holiday concerts or soccer games.

Read More About How Better Benefits Impact Workplace Productivity 

Juggling Back-to-School with Work Responsibilities

Among the biggest school-day stressors for parents are getting everything together (and everyone out the door) in the morning in order to get the kids to school and themselves to work on time, arranging after-school schedules, staying healthy and making sure their kids succeed academically.

Here’s a look at the Top 5 ways parents try to minimize annual back-to-school and school-year stress:

  • Get everything together the night before
  • Teaching kids to help out
  • Splitting the responsibilities with their partner
  • Having backup care support available
  • Hiring child care help 

But even the best laid plans sometimes go awry. When a flu or stomach bug hits and runs through the entire family or an after-school sitter has a conflict, working parents are forced to make adjustments on the fly. Often, it affects their work.

Read More: The Top 10 Back-to-School Challenges Working Parents Face 

Here are the Top 5 ways working parents handle situations when their plans fall apart:

  • They or their partner go to work late or leave early (60%)
  • They ask a family member or friend to help (56%)
  • They or their partner call in sick to work (41%)
  • They or their partner work from home that day (34%)
  • They hire backup child care (19%)

How Employers Can Help

When parents are leaving work early or worrying about their children, productivity can suffer. However, by offering family care benefits, such as those offered by Workplace Solutions, employers can remove a layer of stress from employees’ lives, limit workplace disruptions and improve their bottom line.  

In general, an extra set of hands the biggest help for working parents balancing responsibilities at work and home. In fact, the top two supports parents identified as things that would make their lives easier during back-to-school season were:

  • Child care (38%)
  • A housekeeper (25%)   

Flexibility over their schedules and a family-friendly culture that focuses on results are other ways companies can help parents achieve successful work-life integration during the stressful back-to-school season.

These type of programs, policies and employee benefits are still rare, despite the fact that in most modern families all parents work.

Only 37% provide access to information to help locate child care, while 7% assist with child care at or near the worksite, according to the Families and Work Institute’s 2014 National Study of Employers.  Even less common is employer-provided  backup or emergency care for employees when regular arrangements fall apart (4%) or care for sick children or kids on vacation (3%), according to the study.

Read More: 5 Ways You Can Help Working Parents with Back-to-School Stress

However, when these types of family care benefits are available to employees, it’s been shown to reduce absenteeism and improve employee engagement and productivity levels.

Access to employer-provided backup care has enabled employees to work at least five more hours per week and five additional days per year, according to a Workplace Solutions client survey. And 74% of respondents reported being better able to focus at work knowing their care needs have been met.

Additionally, a recent survey by Workplace Solutions revealed how employee benefits like child care, housekeeping and senior care planning have can have a direct impact on organizational performance by driving employee productivity and supporting recruiting and retention efforts.  


The research found:


  • 90% of employees have left work, and 30% cut back by 6 or more hours per week due to family responsibilities
  • 41% of working parents say the lack of family assistance-related benefits has hurt their work performance 
  • 62% of employees would leave a job for better benefits 


So remember, if you notice more distracted employees this time of year, they could be working parents stressing about back-to-school season. By providing them with the resources to find an extra set of hands and achieve work-life integration, you’re also protecting your bottom line.


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