It's getting to be that time of year: sun, sand...the last day of school.For parents unprepared for the final school bell those without the experience to know that summer camps fill up in February the end of classes signals more than just the celebratory cries of "No more books!" It also delivers a lesson in advanced chaos theory specifically, the effect of vacation days and the absence of a predictable means of support. While care emergencies exist for working parents throughout the year, the summertime scramble is particularly calamitous, especially for those newly introduced to the grade-school calendar and the stop-start motion of the academic year.
"I was completely unprepared for summer vacation," recalls Mumtaz Badshah of the moment she realized that with her daughter in kindergarten she no longer had the rhythmic year-round support of January-through-December child care. "I had to figure out in a hurry how to assemble a team of babysitters so I could get to work."
The Benefit of a Good Back-Up PlanWith schoolyards unavailable, many parents look to their employers' back-up care plans such as the Bright Horizons Back-Up Care Advantage Program® (BUCA) as their saviors, allowing them to stay on routine even when their children are off of theirs.
It's a good strategy for employers as well. Summertime care crises, after all, make everybody feel the heat. June through August is already a popular vacation season, when the search for R&R sends employees to points elsewhere and diminishes the office population significantly. The advent of more absences the unscheduled variety can leave abandoned workplaces and resentful colleagues.
Programs like BUCA, in fact, help organizations avoid care-related absenteeism year-round. A good back-up plan not only fills the holes, but it spares employers the extra challenges of diminished productivity and the sagging morale of employees who have to work double time to make up for missing colleagues. There are psychological benefits, too. For Ms. Badshah, who has used back-up care during the school year as well as in the summer, back-up care made her feel better, no small benefit in light of current research showing the value to organizations of employee well-being. "I was able to work a whole lot better knowing my daughter was safe and that child care was one thing I didn't have to worry about," she says.
A Valuable Ounce of PreventionBUCA's numbers speak to its success. Though use remains active throughout the year, those staffing the phones in BUCA's contact center say summer sees a decisive uptick in reservation requests starting in about May when the reservations window for June typically opens (the most common window for reservations is about 30 days out).
That makes summer a good time to sign on or to remind employees BUCA is in place. For her part, Ms. Badshah calls the service a life saver. Over time, she's relied on more than a few days of back-up care to fill the gaps left between babysitters. She says the extra-added support of child care centers has made the difference between getting to work and calling out.
"I have another child who will be going into kindergarten next year," says Ms. Badshah with a smile. "This time, I'm going to be ready."