Caution: Snow Days Ahead

Winter can present a blizzard of challenges for working parents. But just as bad as the actual snow days are what might be called the "don't know" days.

That's "don't know," as in:

"I don't know if there will be a snow day tomorrow."

"I don't know if I'll have someone to stay with my children so I can get to work in the morning."

"I don't know if I'm going to be at my desk finalizing those important project details or at my laptop on the kitchen table with two children staring at me over their cornflakes."

Derailed by the Storm Track

The truth is, in certain parts of the country, playing "Guess the Storm Track" is a fact of life this time of year. Peek into the average family living room the night before a forecasted winter storm, and you're likely to see anxious working moms and dads obsessively perusing weather sites trying to figure out if Mother Nature is about to upend their workdays.

"It's so much easier when you at least know whether or not the kids are taken care of," says Lisa Chilinski, a working mom who's seen more than her share of winter surprises. "The sleepless nights come from the gray area when you're not sure whether you'll be able to live up to your responsibilities."

Back-Up to Avoid Costs

People who've run up against Old Man Winter call the wheel spinning a drain on energy - not to mention resources. An employee's time spent solving an unexpected child care breakdown is time that could be spent working. And as anyone who's tried to accomplish something with a preschooler tugging on a shirt sleeve can attest, simultaneously working and parenting is not ideal for either.

Such facts are apparent to employers as well since they stand to lose the most from the storm in related absences and lost productivity. Many are turning to back-up care. The idea is to preserve workdays by providing substitute care when regular arrangements fall through. Bright Horizons' nationwide Back-Up Care Advantage Program® (BUCA®) offers comprehensive coverage for children during a snow day or any time a regular care arrangement breaks down. That it's available whenever school is out solves another winter dilemma - the holiday vacation. "School may be out," says Bright Horizons' Chief Human Resources Officer Dan Henry, "but work goes on." And not just for children. BUCA also fills a crucial and growing need for elder care, providing back-up care for employees with aging parents and other adult relatives who need assistance.

"The ease of access is critical," adds Henry. "The fact that employees make a single call and BUCA handles the details ; quickly - means there's no work time wasted finding and negotiating care."

With business continuity an imperative, such programs are taking off, becoming winter staples alongside snow tires, ice melt, and a good shovel. And the benefits aren't limited to snow storms. BUCA has stepped up in numerous emergencies year round, most recently following the challenges associated with Super Storm Sandy. It can also be counted upon in more routine situations, such when a child is mildly ill or a parent is recovering from surgery. In 2011, the program saved clients more than 215,000 workdays, a figure expected to grow in 2012.

Equally important, last-minute availability forever banishes energy lost to the "don't know" blues.

"If you've got something immovable on the schedule," says Chilinski, "it's a relief to never have to worry whether you're going to be able to get where you need to be."    

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

About the Author

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.