Being a working parent before the pandemic was a challenge. Today, faced with school closures and remote work, many parents are burnt out. Many have tweaked their schedules – becoming night owls, burning the midnight oil while the kids are asleep.
While every working parent deserves a trophy (and every employee who adjusted to remote work!), it’s important to recognize that parents need ample support from their organization. Employees should not wear themselves thin juggling work and home life – leaders must create a strategy to address this.
Unfortunately, many companies have fallen short in their support for working parents. A former executive at Hub International filed a lawsuit which alleges she was fired as her children were noisy during conference calls. And in September 2020, a staggering 865,000 women left the U.S. workforce.
As women report providing the bulk of childcare, this raises red flags about the level of support working parents receive from their employers.
Companies that want to retain great staff should create a kinder work environment. Ask employees what would help them to perform at their best. Your teams need empathetic leaders who are open to suggestions on how to make the remote-office a more inclusive place. Below, we explore the role of flexibility, communication and benefits programs in taking the pressure off the parents in your team.
Perhaps the most valuable resource you can give your staff right now is flexibility. With the dual responsibility of childcare and work, many parents are looking mournfully at their schedules, and asking - are there enough hours in the day?
Flexible schedules are a way to recognize the changes employees are facing. It allows staff to manage their time in a way that reduces their stress and improves their productivity.
Ask employees how many meetings a week is useful for them. Avoid overscheduling – a daily check in creates much needed routine. Beyond that, ask yourself, is this really necessary?
Employees might benefit from starting their workdays later or ending earlier. Offer the chance for blocks of time during the day devoted to home-schooling and childcare.
Don’t be afraid to mix things up - a typical 9-5 routine may no longer work for the parents on your team. Some may work better in the evenings, when there are fewer distractions. Your employees know how they work best – ask for their input.
Sometimes just having someone to talk to can really help. Connect parents in your company through an employee resource group.
Colleagues can share tips and tricks on home-schooling – and a space to vent. Reminding employees that they are not alone is hugely reassuring.
Create a working parent Slack channel for small talk and funny memes – you’ll be amazed how a little humour goes a long way.
The pandemic is effecting everyone in different ways. It’s important to schedule a one on one meeting. Talk to each employee on your team individually to personalize your approach.
Some employees are more productive than ever. Some working parents have more support than others. The point is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Having an empathetic conversation with each employee will help highlight any problem areas.
Ask employees how they feel about their current routine. Would greater flexibility help them to avoid burnout?
Switch on video for this call and start on a light-hearted note. Often working parents feel anxious about their manager’s view of their performance. Make it clear from the outset that the one-on-one is for their benefit.
Ask questions that engage the employee – this is an opportunity for employees to speak and for you to listen. Employ your active listening skills. To do this, paraphrase what the employee has said every now and then, for example, ‘What I’m hearing is that you feel overburdened with work at the moment’, or ‘Sounds like you are saying that a different routine would help’.
From the employee’s perspective, you are taking a genuine interest in their concerns. Listening is a way into empathetic conversations – something your teams are greatly in need of at the moment.
Questions to ask working parents during one-on-one meetings
Would greater flexibility in your working hours help you to get tasks done?
Do you have the resources you need, both for your work here and home-schooling (e.g. an extra laptop to separate tasks)?
Would you like to connect with other working parents on our team for support?
What can I do to support you better?
Are you feeling overwhelmed by your workload?
These are extraordinary times, and your employees are in need of extra support. Use surveys to ask what your employees need – from technology, to healthcare benefits, to support for home-schooling.
Online tutoring is a great resource to provide for your working parents. It helps ensure their kids’ education doesn’t suffer – and gives them an hour’s respite to focus on work or take some time for themselves.
If restrictions allow, you could also offer on-site childcare. Parents can drop their kids off and enjoy a quiet working space for an afternoon. You may be able to benefit from a tax credit for supporting your employees with childcare – the Internal Revenue Service lets companies claim back 25 percent of the cost.
Reassess your healthcare benefits and Employee Assistance Program. Does your program provide counselling and mental health support? According to Great Place to Work, 9.8 million working mothers are suffering from burnout. Sustained levels of stress can cause longer-term problems such as anxiety or depression.
Counselling gives parents the tools to manage their stress. Combined with greater flexibility and an empathetic culture, this is an excellent way to support your employees.
The pandemic has postponed dream vacations – but that doesn’t mean we don’t need rest. Unfortunately, we have been working harder and taking less time off during Covid – with the majority of Americans cancelling or postponing their time off.
Managers should remind employees of the vacation policy, and ensure the process of applying for time off is user-friendly.
Leaders can lead by example and take vacation days for themselves. Be vocal about why this is needed. Hearing a manager say, ‘I’m taking a few days off to recharge’, helps validate working parents who are in need of a break.
So many companies mistake a remote work culture for an ‘always on’ culture. Working parents are juggling a constant mental load. Provide extra wellbeing days to support all your staff.
Work-life balance has never been more important. With bedrooms and living rooms turned into home offices, employees have no separation between work and home.
For working parents, perfect work-life balance is unrealistic – how can you juggle child care all day and perform at your best from 9-5? However, managers and HR can create an environment that makes this less painful to navigate.
Respect your employees’ working hours. Working parents, and all employees, need a chance to switch off completely from work. With Slack notifications on our phones, it’s all too easy to forget this.
Give your employees the space they need. Some managers have micromanaged staff during remote-work. This reveals a lack of trust and compounds stress for your employees.
Instead, check-in daily. Remember, you never know what is happening behind the scenes. Give employees control over how they use their time.
Make sure you recognize the successes of the working parents on your team. With improved communication and flexibility, your teams will be better engaged and ready for the next challenge.
Want to learn more about how to adjust to remote work? Why not read our article Create a Winning Work-From-Home Company Culture?
PeopleGoal can support your teams during remote work. To find out more, book a demo today.
Related articles from our blog, read on