Is the business ready for your employees kids going off to university?

Employees kids going off to university?  Are you ready?


Employees kids going off to university – An adventure, new beginning, but does everyone feel the same? 

Do you know how many of your team or the number of people in your organisation have a son or daughter going off to university?

Is the business really ready for your employees kids going off to uni?


employees kids going off to university
A New Era Dawning


Indeed have you noticed any changes in your colleagues or teams?  I was with a client today telling her what a great day I’d had at a taster event dedicated to leadership development with horses (Change Leaders).  Her response was:

Don’t! I had an awful day.  We were doing appraisals and most of the team had issues!

We explored her encounters with the team and quickly made connections with the changes going on in their personal lives – some had delivered their off-spring to university, others had started their children at nursery, reception class, or new senior schools, and one had returned from maternity leave. Accepting that this example is a female dominated environment, it’s not uncommon for people to transfer their home experiences and project on to colleagues or workplace situations.

This is a challenging time for people. It’s a huge change for many and they may be feeling nothing will ever be the same again. But just because everything’s different, doesn’t mean it can’t be as good.  By demonstrating understanding and putting things in place to create open communication and support, your employees could transfer their focus to work and the team.  In time, using a new found freedom to attack new challenges with vigour and enthusiasm and given support to adjust, this could be an opportunity for you and your team members to embrace new challenge and relaunch themselves in a way they hadn’t previously dared to dream.

Handled badly and it could be the slippery slop in the working relationship.

Is the business ready for your employees kids going to uni?I guess we’re talking stress, caring responsibilities and balancing work.  

Stress, in this case waiting for results, managing teen anxiety and moods, and managing disappointment then changed plans (this is before the youngster even leaves!).  Then they go to university and we suffer “Empty Nest Syndrome”. 

Caring Responsibilities – Waiting for results, managing teen emotions, organising uni equipment, supplies, and finance.  Then making the trip to settle the youngster into their new home. (in some cases their first experience of living away from home).  

Then we’re balancing work responsibilities, targets and relationships whilst all this is going on in our personal lives.

Is your business ready for your employees kids going to uni?

We know because the HSE and CIPD reports tell us less than 3/5 of employers are taking steps to  reduce stressors.  The main reason for stress remains constant as workload followed by personal relationships and line management. Indeed Carey Cooper tells us that line managers lack that emotional intelligence that makes the difference in our working lives.  How many of you know the names of your team members’ partner, how many children they have, their interests outside of work?  We constantly tell our people through personal and team development to be “human”, to bring their whole selves to work, and yet we don’t engage with them on a human level inside work.

I’m focusing on university loss and “Empty Nest Syndrome” today, but I could equally be writing about caring responsibilities and their impact on our people.  

According to the CIPD in partnership with Westfields Health their research into the challenges of working carers found only 1/3 of employers (34%) have a policy in place to support employees with caring responsibilities. It is estimated some form of care to parents or dependants is being undertaken by three million UK workers every year and this figure is expected to rise. This can have a massive impact on carers who work.  CIPD recent research reveals only 20% of organisations know how many carers they employ – hence my questions at the start of this article!

And so to employees kids going off to university and Empty Nest Syndrome……We think of mums as the primary care givers but recent research show fathers expressed they were unprepared for the emotional transition of an off spring going to university. Some dads felt guilt through lack of involvement in their son / daughters upbringing prior to leaving home, a missed opportunity now lost. Certainly there are more instances of female empty nest syndrome.  But we can’t forget the dads!

We know empty nest parents can face daunting change, such as establishing different relationships with their son / daughter, a new focus on their own personal relationship, and finding ways to occupy new found free time, as well as balancing work.  Many launch themselves into work.  We find that managers who are prepared for this can enrich roles by providing a new focus or short term project. Since empty nest is associated with loss of purpose and responsibility as well as grieving the changed relationship, we found projects that support purpose and personal satisfaction can help greatly.

Is the business ready for your employees kids going to uni?So what can we do?  Our aim has to be to create an environment of trust, openness and contentment to allow all employees to flourish and be themselves.  

According to a HSE report in 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health. The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2014/15 was 9.9 million days. This equated to an average of 23 days lost per case.  The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work related stress, depression or anxiety were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.  This is consistent with CIPD findings.

If we take deadlines, managerial support and workplace responsibility, these are all things that impact on employees when we have caring responsibilities or things going on for us outside work.  As employers we need to create an environment where people can be open and honest about their lives. We need to create a culture of collaboration and trust and this can only be achieved by embedding engagement throughout the organisation.

Establishing trust comes from authentic leadership where leaders aren’t afraid to show vulnerability, relationships are open and honest and people are able to challenge one another – leadership and personal development will help managers less able to show their “human” side.  

Creating an agile culture is a two way process.  Employees exercising flexibility at peak business times and the organisation demonstrating care and respect when staff need time.

An organisations well-being strategy should include sign-posting to support services, not to be confined to EAP and counselling services.  Why not have a “life resources” page on your intranet. Extend your Flexible Working policy to Carers and Education Responsibilities (i.e. First day at school and university).

If this has captured you and you’re interested in creating a well-being culture or developing leaders to engage effectively I’d love to chat with you.  Give me a call.


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