How To Support Employees With Children During The Back To School Transition Amid COVID-19

All employees face different challenges when conquering the learning curve of remote work. For people who are parents of young children, these challenges are often increased. Looking after children while also trying to complete everyday tasks can be like taking on two jobs at once. And for parents who are single, this twofold role can be magnified even more.

Now that school is back in session, parents have the added pressure of deciding whether they should allow their children to return to the classroom, or homeschool them with the help of e-learning. Whichever decision parents make results in stress; either due to fear of sickness, or becoming overloaded with stress from wearing many hats including parent, teachers, and full-time employee.

It is essential for managers to ensure that their staff and workforce have the resources and tools they need in order to work efficiently and effectively. Here are some ways you can support employees who have the role of teacher, caregiver, housekeeper, and most importantly, parent.

1. Promote Open Communication and Frequent Check-ins

Employers and supervisors need to have direct, open, and honest communication with their employees. It is of the utmost importance for managers to check in with their teams and themselves daily, to see how they are coping emotionally. This is new territory for everyone. By focusing on mutual trust, you can ensure that your colleagues are honest about their ability to perform their tasks and that they are comfortable coming to you for support if they need it.

2. Consider Every Member of your Team Equally

While it is imperative to be respectful and cognizant of the realities of parenthood, it is important to take into account the needs of everyone on your team, whether they are parents or not. In order to keep a positive workplace and team dynamic, all employees should have a similar experience regarding flexibility, workload, and one-on-one time with managers.

3. Provide Flexible Working Hours

Parents are managing a greater number of roles than before and their schedules should be reflective of that. Having more flexible working hours can help parents tackle the numerous roles they have to fill. Employers and supervisors can check in with their employees about the best times to schedule meetings and allow for work outside of the standard nine-to-five hours.

4. Allow time to Socialize

Team meetings are crucial but making time to chat about anything but work is also valuable. Sometimes you just need to take a moment to laugh, to talk about the successes, the failures, or even about your new gardening project! It is a fact that a healthy workplace environment that fosters friendships and relationships can lead to increased happiness, reduced stress and promote overall health. Plan a virtual happy hour or an online yoga class, get creative – the virtual world is your oyster!

5. Be Open to Connecting With Kids

Now that remote work is a part of everyday life, it is likely you will run into a little one when on one of your Zoom video calls! Accept that some parents will be attending virtual calls with children in the room or possibly on their laps. It is important to not make parents feel guilty or insecure about having their kids close. We are all doing our best. That includes being more open to new ideas, concepts and allowing for people to grow and cope with the new world we now live in.

6. Help Connect Employees With Resources

Due to a constant state of uncertainty anxiety, stress, and depression have risen throughout the workforce. It is important for employers to provide resources for their employees to seek help and assistance when they need it. There are programs out there that provide employees with counseling, services, and mental health resources. Here are some helpful resources specifically targeted towards parents and employees enduring increased stress and anxiety ranging from financial support to activities for children, as well as support programs for mental health:

7. Encourage Time Off

Taking regular breaks throughout the day can increase focus and productivity. Taking 15 minutes to take a walk, make tea, or catch up with a friend can improve your overall state of mind, instead of sitting for hours on end. Similarly, taking occasional time off should also be encouraged. For the most part, we are all now working from home and limited in what we can do and where we can go. That does not mean employees should not take time off to enjoy life, take a breather, or take some time for themselves. In fact, time for self-care, family and maintaining human relationships is more important now than ever.

8. Remember: We’re All Human

We need to constantly remind ourselves that everyone is adjusting during this uncertain time, especially parents. Extend compassion, patience and thoughtfulness — especially when things get busy. The key is to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine how they are feeling, and consider how you might be able to help!