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Challenge: Back to School

This School Year is Going to Require Flexibility

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The big, collective push around in-person schooling in a month plus is less about the quality of education and more about our entire economic system. We are learning more about how to do online learning. So, like Zoom for conferences, there’s an established standard. And parents had to become instant experts at home-schooling over the past four months.

Okay, any parent will tell you that diving head first in to homeschooling had its bumps. Although flexibility and quality time aren’t bad things.

Teachers have already found ways to adjust their lesson plans and delivery methods based on online learning versus in-person. And with strong unions, teaching jobs should be safe during a temporary or long-term transition to online for this coming school year.

But the education system has implications beyond lesson plans. For many single parents, dual-income families and those that depend on subsidized lunch programs—sending kids to school is a necessity.

There are a lot of jobs without the flexibility of work from home. Even if many companies, especially large ones, are in no rush to bring people back to the office.

Getting through the next three, six, nine months and beyond as a family may be just as tricky as the last four.

What Parents Can Do to Create More Flexibility

This may require a block-by-block approach. If two parents are working and can’t secure child care, there may be need for a block captain or rotating person on the block that is already home and volunteers to make sure kids are being taken care of and doing their classwork.

Large child care facilities pose the same risks as a school but most kids in a neighborhood are already interacting. This would help limit spread.

No solution is perfect or without risk during a pandemic. Parents often turn to other family members or grandparents but those individuals could be high risk.

Most solutions should center around utilizing the same interactions kids already having.

On the employers side there are things companies could be doing right now to create more flexibility and allow for more time at home. Because if parents have more flexibility in their work, then kids will have more flexibility in when and where they can get their education.

What Companies Can Do To Help Parents

There are large companies already committed strongly to pay equity in regards to race, gender and ability. Horizon Therapeutics’ Irina Konstantinovsky was on a Social Innovation Summit panel earlier last month that I watched.

She has implemented 100% pay equity across the board and works to make that an industry standard.

There will come a time, hopefully soon, where what she is doing won’t be a celebrated anomaly but the norm. It seems like the real shift in corporate social responsibility will be first making sure what happens inside the company matches what they are promoting to the public.

More importantly pay equity could help a family afford day care or to stay home or to work more flexibly.

Flexibility is equally important. There hasn’t been much flexibility in some industries. Most companies overwork their employees to meet quick deadlines. I have a nephew that works in the video game industry and recently he was talking to me about how the Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford was publicly speaking about how the work environment is more important than speed because a flexible work environment attract better talent.

My nephew has described the video game industry as one where coders are up all night coding and working on projects If the video game industry can change and be more flexible, then other areas can learn from it and be more flexible. In summary, leaders are taking opportunities to provide flexibility and equality to create a better work environment so try to find a culture that is evolving in similar ways.

The parenting/work balance heading in to this school year is going to take creativity. If employers help create more flexibility, great. But when they don’t neighborhoods and small groups can band together to get through just like we have been doing since March.

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