By Michael Rhoads, September 16, 2020

The coronavirus has forced everyone to rethink how our society functions. One of the most difficult functions to overcome for me and my peers who have young children has been how to manage childcare while both parents still work full-time jobs.

When on Zoom or other online meetings, our small “co-workers” can be heard playing, screaming, and asking an innumerable amount of embarrassing questions (Daddy, can you take me to the bathroom?)

Childcare options have shrunk for families. Daycare facilities have closed or have been forced to limit the number of children they can accept for safety reasons. Public schools have been the foundation of childcare for most families. However, when a school district moves to online-only or hybrid schooling, it adds to a family’s childcare needs. If your family is fortunate enough, there may be a willing grandparent or relative to help out, or maybe your family is able to hire in-home care such as a nanny to help lighten the burden. Trying to determine what’s best for your child and your career feels overwhelming at times.

How can you as a supervisor help your employee face their childcare needs? The majority of the workforce is currently under a telework arrangement, which does help alleviate commuting time, but what other opportunities are you able to offer? I took a look at OPM’s guidance and found a few ways federal employers can be flexible without compromising the agency’s mission.

If the agency or your collective bargaining agreement allow, flexible work schedules are worth a look.  OPM offers examples of flexible works schedules, including flexitour, gliding, variable day, variable week and maxiflex, in “Fact Sheet: The Use of a Maxiflex Work Schedule in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).” After reviewing the examples, maxiflex caught my eye. OPM described it as a way to address a “wide range of COVID-19 work situations.” Per OPM:

A maxiflex work schedule is a type of flexible work schedule (FWS) that, when combined with telework, provides the most flexibility to employees who need to address the dual demands of work and caregiving, as well as other personal responsibilities in response to COVID-19.

One of the early signs an employee is having trouble with childcare could be irregular leave patterns. In order to recognize other signs of leave abuse, and how to effectively manage employee leave, FELTG is hosting a Absence, Leave Abuse & Medical Issues Week, the week of September 28.  Barbara HagaAnn BoehmKatherine Atkinson, and Meghan Droste will tackle what you need to know about leave and how to handle any potential abuse in the current climate.

Stay safe out there, and remember, we’re all in this together. [email protected]

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