No Back To School? How Creative Employers Are Filling in the Care Gaps

Dad trying to work from home while caring for his young kids

Labor Day is usually the dividing line between the summer that was, and the school year that will be.

This year it’s just Monday – another day in what one parent described as a formless space of time.

“There’s no beginning and no end,” she told me. “Just a nefarious middle.” 

She’s not alone. Parents around the country are treading their own nefarious middles, and have been since the pandemic turned them into hybrid employees/parents/teachers trying to do all things at the same time. 

Many are thinking about cutting back on work; others are considering whether they should leave jobs entirely. The effects have been particularly disastrous for working women, with one (now an ex-employee) characterizing the effects on her career this way: “A few years ago, I was at the White House interviewing the First Lady,” she told FastCompany’s Pavithra Mohan, “and now I’m adjudicating battles between Pokemon players.” 

Parents like the above account for roughly a third of the workforce, meaning their dire situation is employers’ dire situation, too. It illustrates the impossible situation working mothers and fathers currently find themselves in, and the reason for the creative efforts employers are using to try to help. 

How creative is creative? 

Filling in for regular care: What parents really need is care when they don’t have it. And Bank of America, says FastCompany, is one of the many companies expanding back-up care to make sure they do. In 2020, the financial giant added ten days (going from 40 to 50) to its back-up offering, committing 1.2 million days of care for its 20,000 employees. “Employees can either have their child attend one of our centers or partner centers,” our CEO Stephen Kramer told FastCompany “or we send caregivers to the home.” 

Filling in for schools: Cisco parents with children as old as 12 can now bring their kids to a center for help with distance learning. Other programs aim to connect parents of older kids to at-home support and learning pods. “We’re really trying to take the socioeconomic piece out of it,” our CEO told FastCompany. “Because we have great relationships with our employer clients, we are truly encouraging them to subsidize significantly these learning opportunities for their employees’ children,” he said. 

Putting together full-time care: Research stops – even crucial research on testing – when child care does. So leadership at the Broad Institute in Boston took over a Bright Horizons community center to provide the child care parents needed. On-site care – what the FastCompany author called the “Holy Grail of Benefits” – is already operated by Salesforce, ExxonMobile, and the Home Depot, among others. More clients, said our CEO, are considering subsidized Bright Horizons centers for employees working outside of headquarters. 

One thing’s for sure – parents need their employers’ creative support. Resources that were scarce before the pandemic are practically diamond-like now, with dire estimates showing the number of existing child care slots to be shrinking. That employers are paying such close attention to the working-parent plight is a glimmer of good news in a year that has felt like a vast expanse of nothing but bad.  

“The rise of on-site child care?” asks a headline in the FastCompany article. 

We can only hope.

mom stressed with kids during covid

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Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

September 3, 2020

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.