From now through the first quarter of next year, many workers in high-technology companies, telecommunications firms and customer service businesses have been asked to postpone vacations, put in extra hours and work over the holidays.
With school out and some districts extending the holiday break to upgrade their own systems, working parents will need extra day care, activity plans for older children, and alternatives to family meals at home. Managers sensitive to these issues can really help ease the strain, according to Debbie Phillips, a group manager at WFD, a work-life consulting company in Boston.
First off, having a conversation with affected employees about their most pressing family events can lead to better scheduling, she said. That way, parents who have to put in extra time can still attend that special Christmas performance or Hanukkah celebration.
Talking with employees about specific child care concerns and offering to provide services on site or close to work can help parents frazzled from trying to find short-term options. Offering meals for family members at the office can at least mimic the holiday ritual of sharing food and solve preparation problems, Phillips pointed out.
Most important is that managers be aware of what Y2K-related stresses their employees are facing. But the people caring for children should also be clued in about this unusual event, Phillips said. Her company has prepared information packets for day care providers, which raise their awareness of the impact that Y2K demands will place on families. The company?s Y2Kids program for businesses offers suggestions for giving Y2K-troubleshooting employees services like extended hours of child care, temporary care at or near the work site and stress-management counseling.
What makes all of this particularly difficult is the fact that no one really knows what businesses and employees will face in the coming month.
'It?s a little bit of a shell game,' said Phillips. 'Everybody?s doing something a little bit differently.' Not wanting to put extra resources where they aren?t needed or offering useless services to employees is an understandable business concern, she said.
So, 'Lots of companies are taking the wait-and see' attitude.
Contact: Debbie Phillips, group manager, Work Family Directions (WFD), Boston, Mass., 617-264-3317; web site: www.wfd.com.
Background: Fidelity Investments, Boston, Mass., 617-563-7000. The company will offer child care stipends for employees who must work over the New Year weekend, as well as gift-wrapping counters and a concierge service during the December holiday season. Ceridian Performance Partners, Minneapolis, Minn., 612-853-8100, consulting service on work-life issues, including Y2K stress managment.
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