As COVID-19 rapidly spreads in communities around the world, employers are making the difficult choice of asking their employees to work from home. Doing so prioritizes the health and safety of workers and limits the spread of COVID-19, while allowing companies to provide necessary products and services within our communities. However this decision has unquestionably made work more challenging for parents who are grappling with working from home, while also caring for their children who are home due to closures of schools and childcare facilities.
All workers face different challenges when mastering the learning curve of remote work. Many of these challenges are amplified for workers who are parents or guardians of young children. Children, especially young ones, require near constant supervision. Caring for them while also trying to complete work tasks is like taking on two jobs simultaneously. For single parents, the challenge of this dual role is magnified even further. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their workforce has the tools and resources to work efficiently, so here are some ways to support employees who have the enormous task of taking care of children while still doing their day job.
provide flexible work hours
Rigid schedules don’t go hand-in-hand with remote work. When employees are given the opportunity to manage their own time, managers need to accept that a typical 9-to-5 rhythm will go out the window. This is particularly true for parents who often need to follow their children’s schedule. To best support your workers, communicate that flexible hours are available to them. Some parents will split their workdays: one will work in the wee hours of the morning while the other takes the afternoon shift. Let moms and dads decide how to manage their day. Not only will this nurture a positive professional relationship, but it will also allow employees to work optimally.
The drastic shift from office work to remote work can be difficult for parents who are not accustomed to juggling work and kids in the same space. With the added stress of a global pandemic, working from home can be particularly demanding. Support your employees by communicating with them regularly. Examine their workloads and check-in on their mental health. Be open about the realities and difficulties of taking care of children. By focusing on mutual trust, you can ensure that your workers are honest about their ability to perform their tasks and that they are comfortable coming to you for support if they need it.
consider every member of your team equally
While it’s important to be sensitive and respectful towards the realities of parenthood, take into consideration the needs of every person on your team, whether they are parents or not. In order to maintain a positive team dynamic, every employee on your team should have similar experiences in terms of workload, flexibility, and one-on-one time with managers. Evaluate working moms and dads on their ability to work as efficiently and at the same capacity as other workers. Count on them to manage the same projects and daily workload as their colleagues. An equal and balanced workplace requires every employee to be trusted with the same level of opportunity and responsibility.
be open to connecting with kids
Now that remote work is becoming a part of daily life, you will likely be interacting with your team via video calls. This means you will be getting a glimpse into their private lives, their homes, and their children. Accept that some parents will need to attend virtual meetings with kids in the room or even in their laps. Don’t make workers feel uncomfortable by calling them out on their choice to have their kids close. Instead, understand that for many parents this is the most effective way to work. Be flexible and open to minor distractions. If you feel comfortable, interact with the kids! It can help foster a relationship of confidence between you and your employees. And let’s face it, kids are adorable!
Working a job while caring for children is challenging, especially when you have to do both at the same time. Do your best to support working parents by giving them the freedom to be a parent and a worker. Work-life integration means having the flexibility to answer a work email while feeding your kids or taking a break from work to read a book with them. As long as your employees are able to manage their workload, accept that they are first and foremost a parent.