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Exploring Hourly Workforce Challenges: A QnA with Atif Siddiqi, CEO at Branch

Branch, a challenger bank that partners with employers to help Americans grow financially, recently conducted a survey of over 2,000 parents in their Back to School & Childcare for the Hourly Workforce report: Atif Siddiqi, CEO at Branch shares some highlights: 

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Hi Atif! Can you tell us about the idea behind this survey conducted by Branch based on the hourly workforce? We’d love to hear about the key findings and top challenges uncovered. 

We had been speaking with CNBC reporter Megan Leonhardt around the challenges hourly workers had been facing during the pandemic, especially around work and finances, right around the time states across the country were about to announce their plans for school this fall. And while there have been many stories around how difficult it is for parents who work from to handle remote learning, we wanted to learn more about how this impacted hourly working parents, who are more likely to go into a workplace. How would they balance remote learning with their shifts? What type of support did they have (or not have)?

We found that the vast majority of respondents (76.6%) expected their kids to have some sort of remote learning, but didn’t  have any employer benefits supporting childcare (66.3%). To help manage the remote learning experience, many would be turning to family members for help: nearly half (47%) will rely on a family member or friend and/or reduce their work hours to support their children this fall.

It was also striking how the mother (61.5%) in their households would bear the responsibilities around remote learning, while only 16.7% expect the father in their household to be responsible. And if they had to, over 80% of female hourly workers expect to quit their jobs to supervise their children.

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Based on the findings of the survey, what are your thoughts on how employers and companies can create a better culture to reduce these challenges coming out of remote work and remote learning?

I think, even just being aware and understanding these challenges can go a long way. Remote learning is hard for everyone — students, teachers, parents. Plus, the workday is no longer 9-5. Acknowledging the difficulties remote learning may pose for working parents and giving them flexibility in their schedules to balance their family and work can create a better culture and alleviate stress for parents.

In general, how are you seeing employers in tech and B2B help employees adapt to the challenges of the new normal? Can you share some of the initiatives taken by HR teams during this time that has stood out for you?

We’re seeing a lot of the larger companies offering childcare support and additional time off. But those options haven’t been as readily available for the hourly workforce.

One of the best practices we’ve seen is a client reaching out to working parents and also sending care packages to those with young children. That personalized touch and engagement helps that HR exec better understand the unique pain points within their workforce and the employees feel better supported.

I think another thing that many might take for granted is a good internet connection. Especially as many companies migrated to become remote-first for the foreseeable future, companies should also make sure that the employees working from home have good connectivity/home infrastructure and may even consider stipends to help support those who don’t. It’s a consideration for employers with working parents who are going into a workplace too, as their kids have to rely on that infrastructure for remote learning too.

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Based on the findings of Branch’s recent report, how do you think the marketplace for hourly workers will evolve in the near future?

As we’ve seen across industries, the hourly workforce has been essential to keeping our economy going. Hourly workers have traditionally not received as many benefits outside of healthcare as their salaried counterparts, but a lot that has changed over the last few years. Offering hourly workers additional benefits — ranging from financial ones like on-demand pay and fee-free banking to mental health and cell phone reimbursements — have become a stronger incentive to engage and motivate hourly employees. Benefits that can help them balance their personal lives with their work lives allow employees to thrive at work, which will ultimately help employers.

A few top thoughts on balancing remote work and remote learning for working parents with children learning from home?

As a working parent myself, I’ve found blocking certain times off my calendar dedicated solely to remote learning has helped a lot. I’m able to focus on my kids and be present with them for a good chunk of time. It makes the return back to work a little smoother, rather than trying to balance both at the same time. It doesn’t always work out that simply everyday, but having that structure does make remote learning a bit easier to manage.

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