Child care is foundational to our economy. Without it, many parents cannot work or reach their career potential. As child care programs rapidly closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the degree to which work is enabled by child care became obvious, particularly for the large percentage of employees parenting a child while working remotely. Recent studies have found that many working parents lost a job or reduced their hours due to a lack of child care.
For CU Staff members, anxieties about the coming semester abound. While they may be able to rely on their institutions for support in matters of employment, they feel very much on their own in dealing with the personal costs of the pandemic or are unaware of the resources available to them.
To gain a deeper sense of how Staff Council might advocate for staff and advise administration at the UCB campus, the Council sent staff a survey in order to gather data about child and elder care related issues that have become more prominent due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the 2 weeks the survey was open, 191 employees provided their input.
- Approximately 83% of respondents said that providing and arranging child or elder care made their current employment with CU Boulder more challenging due to the many new and unforeseen circumstances of the pandemic.
- We learned that many employees are missing days of work, continuously reorganizing work schedules, working evenings, and having a tough time focusing on work because of the ever-changing child and elder care demands.
- These stressors are also impacting employees’ well-being - mentally, physically, and financially - and have made it harder to balance time, juggle multiple roles (parent/teacher/caregiver etc.) and complete basic day-to-day tasks.
4 primary themes, related to how CU can be more supportive of staff who have child or elder care responsibilities
- Flexible work schedules
- Emotional well-being support
- Discounted child care and resources, and
- A more consistent level of support among managers across campus.
In an effort to support our CU staff community, Staff Council wants to ensure your voices are heard. We are collaborating with administration to make progress as soon as we can, and are presently exploring how to act on your feedback.
Recommendations from survey
- More options for mental health support to help lessen the stressors that are leading some staff toward burnout.
- Ways administratively to balance the unique work scenarios faced by staff, ie.
- Those who cannot work remotely - considering what changes can be made to provide relief so they do not have to choose between exhausting their benefits and educating their children.
- For remote workers – providing periodic mindfulness breaks that are built into their daily schedule to help create a less stressful work day.
- Continue discussions with Faculty & the Administration to explore the possibility of providing more on campus child care resources (options) including but not limited to:
- Collaboration with the School of Education in creating programs that allow for hands on learning while caring for the children of staff via campus daycare and after school programs.
- Expansion of present child care programs on campus at a rate that is affordable to staff.
- Expanding communications concerning child / elder care resources available to staff.
- While we acknowledge that campus leadership has been very understanding of the unique circumstances we are presently working under, a more uniform policy of support needs to be implemented to ensure that all are treated equally.
An anonymized version of our survey results can be found on our website.
Staff Council will share additional insights from our exploration sessions with the Administration over the next weeks / months. Updates will be posted to both the Staff Council Website as well as future articles in CU Boulder Today!