With another return to school looming during the coronavirus pandemic, working parents and their families likely feel some concern over how to manage the transition and how it might impact their mental health.
About a quarter (27 per cent) of working parents said their dependent children are experiencing anxiety about the future due to the pandemic and 24 per cent said the last two years have negatively impacted their children’s social development, according to LifeWorks Inc.’s most recent mental-health index.
“We want to remind parents it’s important to focus on the children because they have been very disrupted, but in order to do that well, the parent has to make sure they’re taking care of themselves — focusing on their own mental health and their anxieties because it can spill over to their children,” says Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice-president of research and total well-being at LifeWorks.
She suggests three ways employers can support working parents and their families heading back to school. The first is maintaining a flexible workplace and allowing employees the ability to step away without feeling like they’ll be reprimanded if they need to deal with something personal.
The second way is to remind parents — and all employees — that it’s still important to invest in their mental health and well-being. Mental health and self-care are often put on the back burner, notes Allen, especially with children, but employers can emphasize that it remains a priority.
She also recommends that employers leverage the resources they have, such as employee assistance programs, since they offer counselling, coaching and even childcare assistance. “I think we sometimes pigeonhole what the EAP can do, but it would be wise for employers to really educate their employees on the benefits of these programs.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, adds Allen, there was a major focus on employee webinars about mental health, many of which included how to speak to children and help them get through such a difficult time, but that focus has recently waned, which she believes is a mistake.
“We can see it in the [mental-health index] scores — we had a big decline in mental health during the pandemic and we’ve had a modest increase, but we’re still nowhere near where we were before. We’re still facing those challenges from the pandemic, just maybe in a different way, so a focus on employee mental health and well-being is still important.”