Believe it or not, summer is over. Children are returning to school, and whether or not you have children yourself, chances are the start of a new school year will affect you in one way or another. A place you may not expect it to come into play is the office (unless your office is a school!), but take another look around you. Your co-workers are definitely feeling the start of the new school year, even if it’s just because Halloween decorations are already in stores. There are many opportunities to ease the stress and make back-to-school fun at work.
In a 2012 poll by Workplace Options and Public Policy Polling, 63 percent of workers noticed that the start of a new school year adds stress to co-workers who are working parents, and 35 percent expect back-to-school preparations to produce additional financial or personal stress in their own lives. So what can workplaces do to help employees during the back-to-school season?
Awareness is a great first step. Just acknowledging that colleagues may be under more stress than usual with coordinating clothes and supply shopping, scheduling after-school childcare, and getting used to a new rhythm at home will go a long way in the office. Stress at home is proven to manifest itself as reduced productivity in the workplace, so divvy up the workload during this season so parents can breathe a little easier and the product doesn’t suffer.
People who don’t have children will have their lives impacted, too. Work-life balance is a challenge for everyone, regardless of parental status. If office responsibilities are being shared in order to accommodate changes in parents’ lives, it needs to be done fairly and still fall under everyone’s job descriptions. Don’t forget about the changes outside the office, too. Traffic tends to increase when school resumes, so be flexible while everyone is getting used to new traffic patterns, and remind everyone to keep an eye out for buses and pedestrians!
A great way to boost spirits in the office around this time of year is to bring school to the office. Plan training courses or offer opportunities for employees to enhance their skills, so everyone can feed on the back-to-school buzz. Consider sponsoring a back-to-school lunch event, and serve throwback lunch favorites, like milk boxes, dinosaur chicken nuggets, and pudding cups. Pair these events with collections of school supplies for underprivileged students.
Once everyone is back in the groove at home and school, things in the office will return to a normal pace, too, just in time for the holidays.