The Fifth Element
Updated: Oct 1
As coronavirus cases continue to surge around the country, many companies agonize over their back-to-work strategies, while simultaneously school districts begin to release plans for re-opening their classrooms this fall. Despite the grave uncertainty of how the pandemic will progress, one thing is certain: working parents find themselves in the crossfire between the partial re-opening of schools and the economy. Company leaders must plan and act now to support their employees who have children.
With schools, day cares, and camps closed, the pandemic greatly exacerbates the disparity many working parents already face in their personal and professional careers. Research from the Pew Research Center highlights how these disparities affect working mothers the greatest, as “employed moms (50%) are more likely than employed dads (39%) to say being a working parent makes it harder for them to advance in their job or career.”
The reality is that working parents are now expected to not only perform well at their jobs, but to become full-time camp counselors and, once again -- just like they experienced this Spring -- teachers. As Deb Perelman recently wrote in the New York Times, “in the Covid-19 economy, you can have a child or a job. You can’t have both.”
How to create split schedules
Last week, I published an article about the value of implementing capsule scheduling within a company, and how, by doing this, employers can make sure their employees limit physical contact while maintaining productivity within the workplace. As I outlined in the article, there are four strategies companies can use for planning their split schedules to most efficiently return to the workplace:
Maximize collaboration: guarantee that people who collaborate together come into the office together
Maximize redundancy and resilience: ensure that the company will still be able to function if an employee gets sick and was in physical contact with other co-workers
Minimize changes: avoid major changes for employees, like reseating
Maximize individual productivity: identify which workers can be productive from home and which will benefit from returning back to the office
Take schools schedule into account
As the CDC now recommends the staggered scheduling model to schools in order to maintain healthy operations, some major school districts have already decided to implement this model for the fall. The Chicago Public School System, for example, announced that they will follow a 2-1-2 hybrid schedule model where “each student pod will spend the same two consecutive days each week learning at school, the same two days learning independently at home, and each Wednesday they will participate in real-time virtual instruction with their classroom teacher.”
With many schools quickly following Chicago’s lead, companies must consider a fifth strategy in planning for their employees’ return to the office: synchronize employees’ in-person work schedules with that of their kids’ in-person school schedules. Though this may seem complicated, it may be the best solution to both get the workforce back to the office safely and productively and alleviate the stress and burden that working parents face in this unprecedented time.
Employers should synchronize employees’ in-person work schedules with that of their kids’ in-person school schedules.
Where to Begin?
Start by collecting data: survey your employees by asking them who has children in schools where they follow a staggered schedule and which days of the week their children will be physically present in school. Company leaders also must take note of which school districts are doing what: with over 13,500 school districts in the country, each district will make their own decisions on which back-to-school plan to adopt, including which days specific students will be in-person vs. at home.
Once you have your data, you need to plan your capsules around the schedules of the parents. This can be done manually or by using technologies, such as Dojo, to help with this process.
Richard Branson’s famous philosophy highlights how organizations’ top priority should be supporting their employees. Now, companies’ leadership teams must step up to the plate and support every single member of their workforce, even those raising children.
In addition to being co-founder of Dojo, Guy Vardi is Chief Innovation Officer at Silverstein Properties, a global real estate owner and developer based in New York City. // Dan Goldstern is co-founder of Dojo.