Given that so many employees across the world are still working from home, there’s been a lot of talk about ‘work-life balance’ lately. For some, this new way of working has been a boost for productivity and freed them from the daily grind of the commute.
But for working parents, trying to find ‘balance’ during a global pandemic is a fundamentally flawed pursuit. Working from home with kids isn’t best practice, and most parents would undoubtedly advise against it. But when schools are closed, what else are they supposed to do?
Of course, the real stickler at the moment is that schools aren’t really closed. Physically, maybe, but there’s still teaching to be done. Lunches to be made. Work to be printed out. Tantrums to be tamed. Parents have found themselves taking on multiple full-time roles on top of their regular jobs as they attempt to appease their tiny new colleagues.
As an employer, it’s essential to understand this shift in dynamics and understand how you can support working parents through these challenges. There are no easy solutions — but here are three things you need to do to ensure business and your employees’ mental health don’t suffer…
It’s essential to realise that there are only so many hours in a day. Working parents are under extreme pressure right now, so why not see if you can hash out a more flexible homeworking arrangement?
And that starts with throwing the traditional idea of ‘targets’ in the bin. Instead, try to focus on results over routines. Being a parent is a round-the-clock job. So, you can forget any notion of them sticking to their usual 9–5. But as long your employees are producing quality work, taking care of clients appropriately and getting the job done, you can afford to loosen the reigns and take a laxer approach to schedules. Equally, it’s important to be flexible around deadlines where possible.
However, for all this to work, you’ll need to reset communication expectations. You should absolutely expect frequent, open communication — just be prepared that this might not always fall within ‘regular’ working hours. (Although it’s worth trying to establish some core hours when you can count on your remote employees, including working parents, to be available for meetings and quick email responses.)
As an employer, empathy is one of the most valuable things you can give your staff. If a working parent is doing everything they can to handle their duties while looking after a child (or children!) at home, you should respect that effort and do what you can to make things more manageable for them. Offering reassurance that you’re on their side will go a long way and help lift a huge weight off their shoulders.
Many parents will also be concerned about being ostracised for mixing work and parenting or not ‘having it all together’. And hosting a meeting is stressful enough without worrying about your child popping up in the background of the Zoom call! So, it’s crucial to encourage open discussion where employees can share their ‘new norms’. If a child suddenly appears in a meeting — no big deal! Showing staff that it’s okay if these two worlds sometimes collide will make them feel more comfortable.
With so many staff now working from home (potentially for some time to come), you may also want to review your HR policies if you haven’t done so already. But before revising any accommodations made for working parents, it’s worth consulting a Professional Employer Organisation (PEO) that can advise you on any legal implications.
One major issue to keep in mind is not to discriminate based on gender. Now more than ever, employers need to realise that working from home with children means that both men and women will be juggling work and parenting.
It’s also vital to ensure that any new arrangements for working parents don’t come at the expense of employees without children. Although parents are experiencing an enormous (and unenviable) challenge right now, other employees may also be struggling in other ways.
So, be sure to check in on all staff members and take steps to accommodate them as much as is reasonably possible.
To help build your remote global workforce and navigate the intricacies of HR and legal compliance, get in touch with PEO Worldwide today.