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6 Workplace Solutions Amid Continued COVID Challenges

No one fully understands the widespread and long-standing impacts of the pandemic. This is especially true with millions of children returning to the classroom to resume their education amidst the Delta variant.

Many schools and workplaces are looking at a hybrid approach to returning to physical classrooms and workplaces, creating new complexities.

In education, for example, everyone continues to do the best they can to ensure children learn, but parents, educators, and lawmakers are burdened with the public health ramifications of their decisions, presenting unprecedented challenges for women, families, and the workplace.

The Impact on Women

Allison and Charlie have two young boys who attend elementary school in a state that does not mandate masks. Allison has health issues that prohibit the boys from safely returning to the physical classroom. There is an option for her sons to attend their class online. Most of their classmates have returned to the physical classroom, requiring the teacher to simultaneously manage the in-class and online students. Early on, Allison noticed that her children could not participate fully online and felt excluded as the teacher responded immediately to what’s in front of her. This situation transferred educational responsibilities and oversight to Allison who left her job in 2020 due to her inability to effectively manage both her professional role and her children’s education. For Allison and Charlie, the decision was financially hard to make, but ultimately the right one for them – their children’s education is the priority.

Allison is one of the more than 2.3 million women who have chosen to leave the workforce since early 2020. Many departures were initially due to closings of schools, daycare facilities, and other childcare options. According Deloitte’s, Women@Work report, ongoing departures will continue because of continuing challenges to balance the high demands in the workplace with tending to the needs of children.

The Impact on Families

Based on the statistics above, there are millions of stories like Allison’s and Charlie’s. Families continue to learn how to remain resilient to the complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity currently in our world. Some are co-parenting in healthy ways. Others are having difficulty. According to a February 2021 National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice Report, domestic violence cases have increased. While the “precise dynamics driving the increase are unclear, lockdowns and pandemic-related economic impacts likely exacerbated factors typically associated with domestic violence, such as increased male unemployment, stress associated with childcare and homeschooling, and increased financial insecurity. Poor coping strategies, including the increased use of alcohol and other substances, may have elevated the risk of abuse.”

This, coupled with preliminary data on the pandemic’s social, emotional, and academic impact on children, demonstrates the clear educational challenges significantly impacting families.

The Impact on the Workplace

COVID-19 has completely shifted the world of work across the globe. Immediate moves to working-from-home in non-essential jobs became critical in early 2020. And while ~50% of Americans and ~25% of the world have been vaccinated as of mid-August, it’s not enough to safely return to the office without continued safety precautions such as masks, social distancing, plastic shields, and PPE. The return to the office hasn’t posed any huge risks, at the time this article was written, mainly because many organizations are continuing to be very cautious about returning to a physical office space until the beginning of 2022.

“Providing consistency with a remote or work-from-home protocol helps to reduce the stress while managing the daily maelstrom of what’s happening at school and in the education of our children.”

Organizational caution on returning to the office is good news for most and especially those responsible for continued educational and childcare issues. Providing consistency with a remote or work-from-home protocol helps to reduce the stress while managing the daily maelstrom of what’s happening at school and in the education of our children.

Organizations that are unable to support women and families as they face academic challenges are likely to lose employees due to the talent war in today’s competitive employment market. Here are six solutions a workplace could embrace to combat losing employees during this time.

6 Workplace Solutions

As an organization, there are so many solutions to consider during this continued uncertain and complex time. Low-hanging fruit ideas include:

  1. Continue to entertain a work-from-home or flexible hybrid approach for employees. In doing so, you directly and immediately reduce the stress of juggling child education, safety, long commutes, and workplace productivity.
  2. Either implement or continue to provide robust mental health, mindfulness and wellness resources and strategies for employees and their families.
  3. Ensure your leaders are equipped to support their employees’ life-work balance maintenance. Increase in burnout at work has been reported.
  4. Increase your engagement and retention strategies. Keep a pulse on what is happening with your workforce. Given the current talent war, losing employees in this competitive market could negatively impact organizational results.
  5. Pay close attention to trends in your turnover, requests for leaves, performance, productivity metrics, promotions, and other critical human capital elements you measure. What story is your data telling you?
  6. Finally, make it continued practice to talk with people that work in your organization. Having a 10-minute conversation about something not related to work can provide a lot of insights on what’s happening in your employees’ lives and how you can support that employee.

Don’t navigate ongoing pandemic-driven challenges in the workplace alone. The human capital experts at Fahrenheit Advisors can help your team move your organization straight forward. Contact us at Experts@FahrenheitAdvisors.com.

 

About the Author

Joan Hibdon builds and maintains strong relationships with Fahrenheit’s clients by connecting with all of the relevant human aspects of business. Her expertise includes coaching, consulting, and providing learning and development services focused on cultivating leadership and creating extraordinary employee experiences in public, private and nonprofit organizations. She is also adept at converting strategy into practical applications and guiding companies through change management initiatives to achieve organizational success.

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