It’s not an ideal situation working from home with children, but during a prolonged crisis like the Coronavirus pandemic, lots of your parent employees and indeed you, may find this situation unavoidable.
Looking after a child and home-schooling is a full-time job in itself, and whilst some parents can split caretaking responsibilities with partners also working from home, you might find some employees who are the only person available to look after their school-aged children.
In a scenario like this, the boundaries and support systems that usually allow a person to be a loving parent and productive employee are gone making work-life balance almost impossible.
Unfortunately. there aren’t any quick fixes but like Forbes suggests flexible, accommodating workplaces are more likely to have successful parent workers.
Here are five things you can implement to achieve this.
1. Forget routines, focus on results
For parent employees, a strict 9-to-5 schedule might not be realistic, so make it clear to your entire team that schedules can be flexed where necessary. Sure, there will be some calls your employees need to attend or times they need to be available, but outside of those times, try to give your team the freedom they need to balance work and life.
At the end of the day happy employees = productive employees!
And if there is something an employee cannot attend, consider recording video calls (you can do this easily via Zoom and Teams) or designate a note-taker so nobody misses important information – just make sure everyone knows you are recording the meeting beforehand.
We know that this won’t work in all roles, but you’ll be surprised, if you are clear about the results you expect to see most employees will try their hardest to deliver especially if they know you’re being flexible.
2. Agree what is realistic
Once you understand how much flex someone actually needs, you can decide whether they can continue to deliver most of their current job in the time they have available to them (taking into account the flexibility given). Sometimes this just won’t be possible, for many parents, especially those who are the sole carer during the daytime, the best thing to do will be to offer them partial or full furlough.
No-one can be expected to look after their children, work all day and be good at both. Offering part-time furlough gives the parent some space in the day to dedicate to their children, and some time for work.
In general terms furlough is used when a business is adversely impacted by Coronavirus, but it can also be used where an employee’s usual childcare or educational arrangements have been disrupted.
3. Set communication expectations
As an employer you should absolutely expect frequent, open communication, so it’s important to set clear communication expectations with your parent workers from the start. Let your employees know that they’re in charge of regularly sharing what their work situation looks like and encourage them to ask for help and support to make things more manageable.
While their schedules are flexible, make sure to establish some core hours where they can be contacted for meetings and quick-email responses. Agree what the performance expectations should be and ensure you adjust these if someone is working reduced hours.
Finally, communicating remotely with partners, children and pets at home can be challenging, especially when they’re all demanding attention! Make exceptions and allow for occasional interruptions, these realities happen and very little can be done to avoid them.
Being open and transparent with your team members goes a long way in encouraging open communication amongst remote employees.
4. Offer emotional support
Offering reassurance and empathy to your parent workers that you’re committed as a company to making their work doable, will help lift a huge weight of their shoulders and allow them to be more positive and productive in the long term.
Another thing to consider for your team is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which will allow struggling employees to access free, confidential advice whenever they need it.
Providing the appropriate support networks for your parent employees is vital to stop any problems turning into something more serious.
5. Make time for social chit-chat
For many parents, work breaks will mainly consist of taking care of children, and all the usual social interaction with their co-workers will be missed.
So, a final way to increase morale with your parent employees is to make time for social check-ins with no formal agenda, whether that is via a weekly Zoom coffee break or a departmental quiz on a Friday afternoon.
Or if you want to have a more ‘unplanned’ social interaction set-up a channel using Slack (or any other instant messaging software) purely for non-work-related chat! And don’t forget to just pick up the phone, and see how things are going.
Setting up more informal communication channels will help improve morale and help your employees maintain good relationships while working from home.
How we can help
Managing remote employees who are looking after their children at the same time can be tough, but we’re here to help with unlimited advice from our qualified HR consultants and bespoke policies covering topics like flexible working and time off for dependants.
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