In the absence of daycares and in-person schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic, working parents have scrambled together a childcare strategy, which likely includes plenty of screen time, stress and guilt.
Working from home has been a difficult adjustment for all; but the transition has been particularly difficult for parents. With children at home full-time, a work/life balance is ever harder to attain for working parents – especially since many of them are now working double-time as nannies and teachers to their own kids.
This puts working parents in a difficult situation. They don’t want to slack on their professional duties to their firms and clients, but they also don’t want to slack on their parental responsibilities.
That’s why, for employers, it’s crucial to be accommodating and understanding to working parents during this time.
Here are five suggestions for supporting parents working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Be flexible
While working from home, parents may have to look after their children for portions of the traditional 9-to-5 work day.
When scheduling meetings, be sure to keep the dialogue open about what’s possible for everybody. That daily 9 a.m. call, for example, might not work for the parent who needs to help her child log in to Google Classrooms at the same time.
Depending on each working parent’s situation (i.e., their children’s ages, whether or not their children or in virtual classrooms, etc.) someone may only be able to log on and work only before the kids wake up in the morning or after they go to bed at night. As long as you don’t need your employees in mandatory meetings, consider letting them work flexible hours. If you absolutely need them to be present for a meeting or work-related event, give them plenty of notice so they can coordinate their children’s schedules around that time.
- Promote open communication and frequent check-ins
Working parents may be hesitant to be honest with employers about the struggles they’re facing while being at home full-time with their kids. They may feel that they need to fib or underplay how difficult it is to work in their home offices while they can hear children in the other room navigating how to utilize their online classrooms.
It is perhaps more important now than ever for employers to create a safe space in which their employees feel comfortable being open, honest and direct about the challenges they may be facing while working from home. Remind the working parents in your firm that this is a strange transition for everyone, and you don’t expect them to do things “perfectly” every time.
The more relaxed and comfortable working parents feel being honest with their employers, the less stressed they will be about work, and their performances are less likely to suffer because of it.
- Help working parents connect to resources
From the very beginning, the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a rise in mental health issues as people grapple with the major life changes that 2020 has brought on.
Working mothers, especially, say they’re dealing with mounting mental health concerns. As an employer, consider doing your part to support your employees emotionally and mentally – especially working parents – during this time. This could include coaching and consulting with employees, or offering an employee assistance program. Or recommend the Virginia Judges & Lawyers Assistance Program, which can connect employees with mental health support.
You may be thinking that, as an employer, it is not your responsibility to offer emotional support for your employees. That belief, however, is short-sighted. The more stable your employees are emotionally and mentally, the better their work and commitment to their jobs will be.
Helping your employees will only help you and your firm in the long run.
- Help with the transition to working from home
Although many Virginians have been working from home since March, many of them didn’t realize that this remote lifestyle would continue as long as it has – and none of us knows when it will end. That said, it’s likely that many employees don’t have the same technology and resources that were available to them in the office.
Having limited resources can create an added layer of difficulty and frustration for parents doing their best to find separation in their work and personal lives during this time. If possible, provide a stipend to help support employees transition to remote work.
In the case of working parents, ensure they are able to get not only equipment they need to create home offices, but also streaming services, books, toys or other supplies necessary to keep their children occupied and entertained.
- Encourage social connections
Work meetings and conference calls are necessary, but setting aside time to discuss anything but work is also important. Carve out activities such as Zoom coffee breaks and happy hours for your employees to connect and socialize, even if in-person meetings are still off the table.
Shivbhadrasinh Gohil, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Meetanshi, a Magento development company, said his team conducts an activity called “Photos at 4” every workday to keep connected while working remotely. To participate in “Photos at 4,” employees respond to a prompt, such as “dream vacation” or “favorite quarantine snack” by sharing a photograph.
Gohil believes that these prompts allow his employees to take a break and talk about something other than their work – which is something all employees, especially working parents, would be grateful for right now.
At the end of the day, it’s important for employers to cut their working parents some slack. Reprioritize tasks to openly welcome guest appearances from babies, toddlers, teenagers or pets on video calls, and remember that working parents are now readily responsible for more things throughout the day than professional tasks.