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Back To School (And Work): Strategies To Support Working Students

Back To School (And Work)

Last week, we talked about how the back-to-school season may affect working parents, including the stresses of readjusting to a school schedule and finding appropriate childcare options, all while still juggling a very full workload.

But what about all of the working students out there? One could argue that they are equally as stressed out by attempting to balance their work and school responsibilities.

Whether the students in your workforce are full-time students working when they’re not in class, or full-time employees taking night classes or online courses, or something in between, it can be difficult for these working students to manage their workloads as well. And while most employers support the idea of their employees attaining higher education or additional certifications, actually supporting these employees is not always easy to do. That’s why we’ve put together our list of four simple ways employers can support employees who are also students.

  • Tuition Reimbursement
    Each year, American businesses spend upwards of $10 billion for tuition reimbursement. That’s a pretty significant investment. While paying for employees’ tuition is a benefit many small companies feel unable to extend, the federal government does help by allowing employers to provide their workers with up to $5,250 a year in tax-free educational benefits, including assistance for graduate studies. 

When it comes to structuring a tuition reimbursement program, employers have a multitude of options. Many choose to set a cap on the amount of tuition expenditures for which they will reimburse employees. Some offer reimbursement on a sliding scale, depending on how long an employee has been with the company, or on the grade they earn. With or without any of these stipulations, tuition reimbursement is still seen as one of the most valuable benefits a company can offer its employees, and one that speaks to its company culture. 

  • Flexible Schedules
    One of the most basic struggles working students face is simply finding the time to manage all of their responsibilities. Offering flexible work schedules in which employees can adjust their work hours to fit better with their class schedule, is an invaluable benefit for many employees enrolled in classes. Even permitting workers to take a slightly longer lunch hour in order to study can be a huge relief for these employees (doubly so if they’re allowed to use an empty company conference room to study in). 

Employers need to consider, however, how such work schedules may impact a student’s co-workers. Some workers feel over-burdened, and even resentful, when their colleagues take off to attend classes. Job-sharing, where two part-time employees do the job of one, may be an alternative to over-taxing team members. 

  • Provide Long-Term Incentives People decide to pursue additional education for a variety of reasons – personal achievement, a thirst for knowledge, to challenge themselves – but, by and large, the most common reason is to improve their job prospects and further their own careers. While this may seem like bad news for many employers (nobody wants to see their most motivated employees leave), smart employers not only acknowledge this fact – they embrace it. If you learn that a star employee is taking classes or seeking an additional certification, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. Managers need to be willing to discuss potential post-degree career paths and earning increases (without making promises they cannot keep). If retaining an employee after they graduate is important, the company should be prepared to recognize and reward their accomplishment.

Bottom line: Employers who value educated employees should not only encourage their academic endeavors but also entice them to stay with the company once they achieve their goals. 

  • Cheer On Higher Learning
    Employers need to remember that their employees’ academic interests may not be aligned with their own business interests. While employers might like to see an employee pursue a management or business degree, employees need to fulfill their own personal educational goals. So whether they’re taking logistics or literature, cheer them on. While some of the liberal arts may not provide the practical skills a company needs, an employee’s exposure to open exchange of ideas and higher learning that academia provides can infuse a business with new energy and agility.

These are just a few of the strategies employers can use to support their employees who are pursuing higher education. Particularly during the next few weeks, as thousands of working students once again struggle to balance their school work with their actual job responsibilities, the most important thing employers can do for them is to be understanding should any issues arise during this period of back-to-school transition.

As a leader in the HR outsourcing industry, G&A Partners delivers HR support better than anyone can. We handle the everyday administrative HR tasks — human resources, payroll and employee benefits — in a way that allows you to focus on other areas of your business and give you back time to focus on what matters most to you. We help our clients implement HR strategies, policies and procedures that help them not only position themselves as an employer of choice to prospective employees, but also take better care of their current workforce.

Want to learn more about how G&A Partners can help you grow your business? Call us today at 866-634-6713 to speak with an HR expert or visit to schedule a free, 30-minute business consultation.

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