concern for parents
re-entering the office? Childcare

Food, technology access and well-being resources are critical for working parents and their school-aged children

August 28, 2020

As we approach the fall, millions of American workers are waiting to see how in-person, hybrid or online learning will play out for their school-aged children. In the US, a quarter of the workforce cares for a child under 14, leaving working parents uncertain about how they will balance a career with their child’s education.

Many families depend on schools for much more than just the learning that happens within the classroom. Parents and children in vulnerable situations can access school-based services to deal with everything from food insecurity to a lack of technology access and even wellbeing resources. Patricia Raicht, Senior Vice President, National Director of Research at JLL, said, "According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 7.1 million students who received special ed aid for either physical, educational or learning disabilities." If mass school closures are once again implemented for the 2020–2021 school year, addressing these issues will be a critical component to enabling the workforce — particularly those in lower-income households with school-aged children — to return to their jobs.

There’s no doubt education policies will have an inevitable impact on business and the office market through 2021. Many working parents will be forced to stay home, leave their jobs, or reduce hours — further straining the economy and labor pool.

For employers seeking ways to support their people and maintain productivity in the midst of significant uncertainty, flexibility will be key. In this latest podcast, James Cook speaks with Raicht and fellow researcher, Christian Beaudoin, about critical strategies companies should use to retain a sizeable portion of their workforce.

James Cook: [00:00:00] It is back to school season, but thanks to the pandemic school now is unlike anything we've ever seen before. And that change is having big impacts on the millions of workers that also happened to be parents. This is building places where we look at the world of commercial real estate through the eyes of the experts that study it day.

[00:00:22] My name is James Cook and I researched real estate for J L L. Today, I'm talking with two researchers who are digging into the effects of COVID-19 impacted education on the office worker.

[00:00:35] Patricia Raicht: [00:00:35] I'm Trisha rage, and I manage research for JLL for the Western us.

[00:00:42] Christian Beaudoin: [00:00:42] Uh, my name is Christian Baldwin. I lead research for JLL in the central region.

[00:00:46] What really started this is we ran an initial, an initial survey at JLL among our clients and ask them what were the biggest concerns about returning to the office and getting back to reentering their workspaces? And the top two issues far and away were transit. And number two was education and the concerns on childcare and daycare and the limitations of some folks to get back into their traditional work day and work style.

[00:01:11] If there were no place for their children.

[00:01:13] Patricia Raicht: [00:01:13] In addition, we wanted to make sure that we understood that the, some of these issues have an outsized impact on. Low wage earners, single parents and families that rely on two incomes to make ends meet those people also work in offices and they have a few additional issues that need to be addressed if they are to go back to work and schools are not operational in a physical setting,

[00:01:43] James Cook: [00:01:43] the scope of the problem here.

[00:01:45] Do you guys have a sense of how many office workers or have children that, that are in their care?

[00:01:51] Christian Beaudoin: [00:01:51] There are 34 million workers. That's essentially one quarter of all U S employees that care for a child under the age of 14, up to 25 million office using employees have challenges with returning to the physical office space due to childcare issues.

[00:02:04] So to us that the numbers are quite staggering.

[00:02:07] James Cook: [00:02:07] And so the impact for those, those folks, what happens to those families? How, how do they deal with it?

[00:02:14] Christian Beaudoin: [00:02:14] It's causing some people to have, to make very difficult choices like that, of reduced hours, or completely removing themselves from the workforce in order to take care of their children.

[00:02:22] Patricia Raicht: [00:02:22] Food insecurity is an issue for almost 14% of us households with children. The national school lunch program currently provides almost 30 million students with free or reduced lunch. And those employees that are relying nine on school lunches to help feed their children have additional stress. If schools are not open the other three significant issues with regards to the social impacts for low wage earners are not everybody has access to high speed, internet or technology to do schooling at home.

[00:03:01] Some children rely on school for the, or access to mental and physical health care. According to the national center for education statistics, there were 7.1 million students who received aid for special ed needs, either physical or educational or learning disabilities. And if those students are not in school, then they're don't have access to that.

[00:03:29] So that's quite a lot of stressors added to those low wage earners who are trying to work from home, or maybe they're returning to work, but there's no physical schools for their kids to go to.

[00:03:43] James Cook: [00:03:43] Seems like every school district is dealing with back to school differently. Are there some common themes that you're seeing,

[00:03:52] Christian Beaudoin: [00:03:52] even since we wrote our initial report?

[00:03:55] Conditions have changed in many school districts. So we got identified the three biggest New York public schools, Los Angeles unified public school system and the Chicago public school system at the time of our report writing. Each of those three districts had a different plan for starting the school year.

[00:04:11] Some going part time, some going half days, some completely remote and some going full time. And now all three of those biggest school districts are all staying home and doing complete, uh, remote and e-learning for the first few months, at least three biggest school districts in the three biggest cities also represented.

[00:04:27] Three to 4 million office using employees in each of those markets. Right? So it's a, it's a significant issue.

[00:04:33] James Cook: [00:04:33] Let's say you're a large employer that has employees in many different cities. Are you being forced to track what all the different schools are doing?

[00:04:42] Christian Beaudoin: [00:04:42] Yes, that's exactly what's happening. So.

[00:04:44] Many of our clients, which have offices around the country have quite a bit of work to understand what the policies are by school district, across the country, to understand what their policies need to be for employees returning to the, yeah,

[00:04:56] Patricia Raicht: [00:04:56] we have identified some potential strategies for companies to implement, to help support their workforce.

[00:05:02] And we have found companies doing. All kinds of different things, small companies and large companies, Microsoft tried to address two needs at their Redmond campus. They repurposed their on campus, Jude and food service employees. To provide meals for schools and families are, they provided so far 121,000 meals, and we're good delivered to a local area families that kept their food workers employed.

[00:05:33] And in addition kept buying from local suppliers and food vendors and then provided lunches to local families, a much smaller company, Carlo construction. Decided to take a more direct approach and they supporting their field employees by providing them so that they didn't have to spend money on their lunches.

[00:05:58] And they could use that for their children at home and also delivered organic boxes of fresh produce to their homes. Comcast is helping school districts and community based organizations connect low income students to the internet to help support diverse learning. The other ideas that have searches are creating a food pantry at your own work.

[00:06:25] So converting your cafeteria or kitchen to a food pantry where you stopped shop stable foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and allow those employees that need it to just come in and grab what they need. Another option, gift cards for grocery stores that you would just provide to your employees.

[00:06:45] Basically, no questions asked the best way a company can support there low income and working parents, especially in these kinds of times as to ensure that they, they have family friendly workplace policies and pay a livable wage, that their employees are able to focus on work and not. Trying to feed their family.

[00:07:08] But I think the one other issue that is really, really difficult for people, if they have a special needs child and they are now not able to access those services and support through the schools and a couple of things that companies can do to help them. Those parents is one is provide help, provide them with some sort of certainty with scheduling.

[00:07:36] And Google was one of the first that came out and announced that they would allow work from home until July, 2021. And what that does for a parent of a special needs child is allows them to figure out what support they need and schedule it with certainty that they need it through the school year. So they can find that support and make arrangements for it.

[00:08:02] I spoke to a woman named crystal Negan, yay. From infer, all which is a nonprofit. And she had a suggestion for a company to basically hire a social worker whose job it is to pull together the myriad of organizations that provide support for special needs kids, because it's overwhelming and really time consuming for the parent.

[00:08:28] James Cook: [00:08:28] You know, it just makes you realize, we think traditionally about schools being just about putting knowledge into kids' heads, but it's really about this whole variety of services and benefits that families get from schools that they're missing out on. Would either of you be open to talking about personal impact by the closures of school?

[00:08:51] Sure.

[00:08:52] Christian Beaudoin: [00:08:52] I personally am very fortunate. I have two young school aged children. However at JLL, we have the flexibility to work from home. We're very lucky right now in that I can work from the dining room table right next to my two daughters who are e-learning. It's certainly not ideal for any of us, but we can make it work.

[00:09:08] We have neighbors who have some children in high school, not going back some in preschool or middle school that are going back to be, to be honest, it's, it's a mess and there's no consistency across even cities or districts. So it's very difficult for some families, I think who have multiple children and those who have multiple jobs outside the home.

[00:09:26] Patricia Raicht: [00:09:26] James, I'm also very, very privileged in that I'm able to work from home. And I have a wife who stays home and helps take care of her. My kids. I'm also have older children. I am really concerned about the social implications. That that is a really tough time to not be able to hang out with your friends, to do dance team, to play soccer or to play softball.

[00:09:54] To go to school dances, to do all the things that teenagers need to do to learn how to be grownups and figure out what kind of human they want to be. It's very isolating. And I am really concerned about the longterm implications of this isolation on students.

[00:10:17] James Cook: [00:10:17] Boy, I can't, I can't even imagine what it would be.

[00:10:19] Like to be a teen or a tween and trying to find my way in the world and also being stuck at home or trying to take classes remotely, Christian and Tricia. Thank you so much for joining me today.

[00:10:32] Patricia Raicht: [00:10:32] Thank you. Thank you, James.

[00:10:35] James Cook: [00:10:35] I just recently had another conversation with a researcher that I work with. Kesha virtue, the impacts of COVID-19 on back to school, retail shopping, uh, she ran a consumer survey and we actually had some pretty surprising results.

[00:10:50] You can hear our conversation. On the latest episode of our sister show, it's called where we buy, where we buy. It's a show where we talk with retail experts and we visit the places where we buy and you can find it wherever you get your podcasts. If you're on the hunt for a research report about commercial real estate, you should check out our website.

[00:11:13] It's J L If you've got a comment on today's episode or a topic you'd like for us to tackle on a future episode, you can tell us about it by leaving a message on the podcast hotline and who knows. We might even use your voice on an upcoming show. Give us a call at (602) 633-4061.