Working Parents Need Our Support
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the shutdown of schools, offices, and daycare programs this year, working parents have been expected to accomplish Herculean feats of focus. Many parents spend their waking hours with one eye on their computer screens and the other on their children, all while coordinating remote learning, nap times, and video conferences.
Those who continue to work outside the home must navigate the unpredictable availability of childcare services. Anything from new shutdown orders to a caretaker forced to quarantine can mean a lapse in care. A recent study found that 33% of working parents had no access to childcare at all, a percentage twice as large as in pre-pandemic times.
At Alto, we serve thousands of working parents, including many who are juggling caring for their children and aging parents. Just as we support them by delivering a better pharmacy experience, we also want to support the hundreds of heroic parents working at Alto and caring for our customers every day.
When the pandemic hit, we were thankful to already be in the position to make a meaningful difference for Alto’s working parents. Our Working Parents & Allies Employee Resource Group (ERG) was formed at the beginning of 2020.
What Exactly is an ERG?
ERGs are meant to empower community groups within an organization by directly linking decision makers and implementing policies that support the group’s specific needs. The groups often center around a shared identity or experience and focus on building community, providing support, and contributing to its members’ personal and professional well-being. By creating an open forum for employees to come together, discuss challenges and opportunities, and foster a sense of belonging, ERGs help both individuals and organizations thrive.
“Now more than ever it’s important to uplift and advocate for parents,” shares co-lead and mother Lidia Valdez. “The parenting landscape has shifted dramatically in 2020 but with the continued sense of community at Alto we can lean on one another for advice and support.”
For more on how Alto fosters an inclusive culture and company, we invite you to read Diversity at Alto.
The Mission of Alto’s Parent & Allies ERG
Alto’s Working Parents & Allies ERG came into being just before the pandemic began placing unprecedented demands on parents. It aims to provide an inclusive space for parents and allies to discuss how they’re feeling, speak openly about the challenges they’re facing, and request what they need from Alto. The ERG also helps parents remain informed and up-to-date on the policies and programs that are in place to support them.
While the ERG’s first initiatives have centered upon providing pandemic-related support—from child care services to remote learning opportunities—these initiatives will continue to grow and evolve along with the needs of working parents at Alto.
Responding to Parents’ Immediate Needs
It was quickly apparent that Alto’s working parents—like parents everywhere—were overwhelmed with trying to manage the sudden shift to full-time, in-home childcare and schooling. The ERG responded by launching forums co-hosted by parents and the ERG leadership committee. These support groups were designed to create a safe space for parents and allies to share how they felt amidst a return to virtual learning in the Fall. Following the discussions, we launched a pilot program to offer immediate, tangible support.
We began by inviting parents to opt into a program facilitating childcare services through UrbanSitter—a site that connects parents with trusted caretakers from their local communities. Interested parents received a stipend to cover membership fees and in-home or remote care costs. Whether parents needed support during a video conference or last-minute care after finding out their child’s daycare was closed, UrbanSitter could provide some relief.
We also rolled out a program with Outschool—a marketplace of live, online classes for students ages three to eighteen. Participating parents could access five hours of classes per week for free, allowing their children to explore interests ranging from math and music to filmmaking, coding, painting, and writing. With over 50,000 classes available, Outschool helps parents focus by keeping their kids engaged with fun, enriching activities. In the words of one Alto parent, “I really enjoyed Outschool for my kids. It’s such a good help; they are engaged and learning new things. Both my children and I love it!”
In addition, parents that needed hardware support for at-home distance learning were provided laptops at no cost.
After a few months, we asked parents to provide feedback on the pilot program. We found that 71% of parents participated in the program, and 47% felt that the resources had made a positive impact on their lives or increased their ability to be productive and engaged at work. We’ll use this feedback to continue initiatives that have made a difference in the lives of Alto’s working parents while introducing new programs that can provide further support.
Sharing with the Broader Community
The ERG leadership team also identified opportunities that would spark joy and support parents outside of the Alto community. “Working remotely can often feel isolating so we wanted to create instances for parents and their children to be recognized,” notes co-lead and parent Sandy Obeji. “In addition, we knew it would be important to extend this acknowledgement beyond parents at Alto.“
In October, we hosted a Halloween costume contest aimed at encouraging fun and creativity. Alto parents were invited to share photos of their kids in costumes, and prizes were awarded for the most unique, scariest, and funniest getups. Both adults and kids participated in choosing the winners, arguably providing more fun than a night of trick-or-treating.
We also coordinated a Holiday Giveback Program to raise money for supplies and gifts for children and families in need during the holiday season. Alto employees were able to donate items to seven organizations—one for each Alto pharmacy location—virtually with the help of You Give Goods. In the end, we exceeded our fundraising goal and Alto matched the total donation to help make the holidays a little brighter for families across the country.
Initiatives like these are just the beginning, and the Working Parents & Allies ERG has been collecting feedback that will guide our planning for 2021. In addition to extending access to several of the resources mentioned above, we are also exploring workshops for parents centered around current issues and events.
Supporting the Parents Who Support Alto
There are plenty of reasons to believe that parents are superheroes, but that doesn’t mean we can expect them to perform superhuman tasks. Alto’s Working Parents & Allies ERG was created to help parents find much-needed balance and support during a tremendously difficult time. We look forward to seeing the group grow, aiding ongoing and future initiatives, and continuing to foster a culture where everyone feels included, valued, and supported.
Interested in learning more about the Working Parents & Allies ERG? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.