A recent survey found just 55% of working parents feel that they can ask for entitled annual leave during busy school holiday periods.
While SMEs can struggle to maintain performance with multiple employees on annual leave at the same time, effective planning and fostering of an inclusive culture will ensure school holiday periods are managed effectively.
SME School Holiday Challenges
Working parents juggle on a daily basis. From school runs to sports team try-outs, a child’s social schedule can be endless. On top of this, school holidays present a fresh challenge, as organisations face the task of giving parents time off, while ensuring company performance does not suffer.
School holidays cannot be avoided; give or take a few days, most working parents face the challenge of obtaining sought-after annual leave all at the same time.
While those with children are often prioritised, SMEs workplace environments can begin to foster a culture of resentment from childless employees, coupled with unnecessary guilt from working parents.
Impact on Workplace Wellbeing
Such a culture can damage a workplace and their employee wellness. Resentment from childless staff can cause a breakdown in dynamics between management, as well as fellow subordinate colleagues.
On the other hand, working parents may feel guilty to ask for annual leave during school holiday periods. This can result in a deterioration in their own workplace wellbeing and resentment towards poor management of holidays.
Ultimately, this culture of resentment and guilt can severely impact workplace relations, leading to higher staff turnover and a breakdown of organisation performance through loss of talent.
How Can Businesses Support Staff During School Holiday Season?
Working Mother recently published the “Top 100” companies for working mothers, with the top 10 featuring companies such as Deloitte and IBM. In this survey, it was identified that these top companies see childcare and working parental challenges as a joint venture between themselves and their colleagues.
Organisations like this raise the bar for their counterparts; SMEs, in particular, face the threat of losing staff to organisations that take working parents and the challenges that come with this sector seriously.
Annual leave is often considered a given, overlooked as nothing more than a simple holiday allowance. However, there are a number of ways organisations can improve their annual leave programme to boost morale, improve retention and support working parents.
Foster a Culture of Inclusivity
Businesses can learn to juggle school holiday season effectively by fostering a culture of inclusivity of working parents, as well as an understanding towards the resentment that can be felt by childless employees.
Workplaces can foster such a culture by ensuring that staff at all levels interact with each other. This could be through organising weekly meetings between different staff or departments, a staff night out, or even spontaneous coffee outings.
Such staff interaction can ensure that workplace dynamics are kept inclusive, establish greater understanding between colleagues and their personal situations, as well as prevent resentment from creeping in.
In turn, organisations can better understand how to support their colleagues during school holiday season.
Plan, Prioritise, Perform
Planning staff holidays well in advance will help organisations to satisfy employee needs, and prevent resentment growing between colleagues and towards management.
By ensuring that effective cover is available, with equal skills, companies can support working parents while maintaining their success and performance as a business.
Prioritising tasks for employees who are about to go on annual leave should also be high on an organisation’s support agenda. Providing staff adequate time and space to plan, prioritise, delegate and deliver their workload leading up to their time off will ensure organisation performance is not affected.
Not only will this improve performance of cover staff, but a working parent will feel able to cope with their workload when they return.
Work Together with Working Parents
Working together with working parents is crucial for an organisation to retain talent, while ensuring effective performance regardless of time of year.
Businesses can improve relations with working parents by discussing how they can improve their annual leave programme to suit their needs.
An inclusive culture will eradicate unnecessary feelings of guilt often experienced by working parents when seeking annual leave during school holidays.
With many workplaces denying a carry-over of annual leave, this is critical. Organisations can ensure that all staff take their full holiday allowance, de-stigmatising this benefit, and improving employee wellbeing as a result.
Superior planning and management, alongside a ‘joint’ attitude will ensure organisations work together with working parents and tackle school holiday periods effectively.
The next article in this “ABC: Working Parents” series will explore how organisations can support working parents as they return to work.