Balancing Children at School and Parents at Work

A School Calendar

There are many different life situations facing parents. One of the most rewarding and challenging is the balancing act of raising children while meeting work responsibilities.  One fundamental obligation of a parent is to make sure that their children obtain the necessary education to be successful in life.  Children who are engaged and supported at school usually become successful adults.  Many times, employers ignorantly create work situations which do not support this fundamental parental obligation. 

In the last few years, with the advent of homeschooling, the Covid pandemic has significantly impacted the parenting process and created problems with presenteeism.  For many, balancing the parental educational obligations while working from home has been particularly difficult. As more children return to in-person schooling, the parental obligations will change and evolve.

If your company wants to recruit and retain the best and brightest employees, it must have specific programs in place which are designed to help the parents meet their parenting challenges.

Presenteeism is a productivity issue that is caused by workers who are distracted or physically unwell. Presenteeism is the lost productivity that occurs when employees are not fully focused and performing their work activities because of childcare, schooling issues, family concerns (aging parents), illness or injury.  Employees who are experiencing presenteeism are, by definition, trying to give their best efforts but are physically or mentally unable to do so. Although not tracked like absenteeism, the costs of presenteeism have been estimated to be larger in real terms as employees suffering from longer-term conditions see persistent drops in productivity.

Concern over the wellbeing of a child can directly impact the presenteeism of a parent.  Employers who adopted programs specifically to address “school” presenteeism by providing flexible work hours and encouraging the involvement of the parent in their child’s education and school activities are more likely to be able to recruit and maintain a productive workforce.

There are specific activities and programs which employers can implement to maximize presenteeism involving the balance between a children’s school and a parents work.

  • The employer and the parent should be aware of “The School calendar” and the associated parental obligations which are required for each event.
  • The employer should encourage and celebrate the parent’s participation in the school-based activities (field trips, Halloween parades, birthday parties etc.)
  • The employer should not engage in activities which significantly increase the costs for the parents. One example is that some after-school child care facilities have a five dollar per minute charge for late pick up.
  • Under no circumstances should meetings or other work responsibilities impair the ability for a parent to safely drop off or pick up a child from the school or childcare facility. 
  • Single parents or grandparents who are responsible for school age children may have unique needs.
  • The employer or supervisor should be aware of any special childcare responsibilities that the employee may have.
  • Many school administrators do what they can to accommodate parents’ needs and schedules. They can be an important part of the team. Check with them to help determine participation and scheduling.
  • Parents should inform the employer of their schooling responsibilities and obligations. This will allow the employer to better facilitate and allow accommodation.
  • When a child is sick or there is an emergency, the employer should work with the employee to make sure that the employee can promptly attend to the situation without remorse or experiencing retribution.
  • Empowered employees will not have problems with meeting their schooling responsibilities.
  • Encourage the use of EAP programs if there are issues which are overwhelming the employees.
  • Internal company financial incentives and production goals should be aligned to avoid inadvertent pressure for parents not to meet their schooling obligations.  Misaligned incentives result in the company stating it supports parents but front line supervisors do not.

A typical School Calendar

First day of school

Labor day

Back to school night

Field trips


Medical emergencies

Home sick

“Snow” days

Birthday parties


After school activities

Pick up child on time

Thanksgiving break

Winter concert / talent show

Holiday party and break

Martin Luther King weekend

President’s holiday and ski week

Valentines day

Parent teacher conference

Spring break


Open House

Regularly scheduled medical visits (eye, dental, etc.)

Team sports (gymnastics, soccer, baseball, football, etc.)

Memorial Day

Summer break

Great employers will have better presenteeism and greater employee retention if they understand and support the education of their employees’ children.  Front line supervisors should be aware of the local school calendars. They should help work with the employees’ schedules and obligations to facilitate an engaged and productive workforce.