how to support working parents during COVID-19.
2020 is a different year for everyone. As long as personnel are not required on-site to perform their duties, employers from around the world are allowing their employees to work from home. Doing so prioritises the health and safety of the employees and minimises the spread of COVID-19.
Staying home is not a requirement for just employees, but children too. Due to the closure of schools and childcare facilities as part of the community measures, working parents may suddenly find their hands full having to juggle between professional and parenting duties.
Children, especially young ones, require constant and tight supervision. Parents have to monitor their infants almost 24 hours a day. Working parents will now also have to make sure that their children are paying attention to the online classes, instead of using TikTok or playing games on their phones.
4 steps to support working parents
1. provide flexible work hours
Employers need to accept that working parents will find it difficult to follow the schedule of working 9 to 5 when the entire family is at home. Parents have to constantly excuse themselves from work to attend to their child throughout the day and this would require them to establish a new routine. Some may even need to change the time of their meetings, as they need to prepare food for their children.
If possible, provide your employees with the flexibility they need to strike a healthy balance between work and family. When working parents are not tied to a fixed work schedule, they will feel less stressed, which will create a positive atmosphere at home. They can choose to start work as soon as their children start school at 8am or during nap time.
Employees can also exercise flexibility at home by sharing parenting duties. Take turns with your partner to look after your child. If your partner is good in arts, then have them be the tutor for language and history, while you focus on science and mathematics.
2. check-in regularly
While some children may be too young to understand the severity of the situation, older kids may fear that home-based learning may impact their academic performance. Parents could feel equally stressed as they will want the best for their kid and be the pillar that they can lean on.
Communicate with your employees regularly. Since they are unable to pour out their frustrations at home, the stress may take a toll on their mental health. Take time to have a quick chat to find out how they are doing. Listen to their concerns and experiences as a working parent and help them as much as you can. Let them know that you are always there if they need help - be it for a work assignment or just to offer a listening ear.
This helps to build mutual trust between you and your employee, which would encourage your staff to be honest about their ability to perform their tasks and ensure that they feel comfortable coming to you for help.
3. avoid special treatment
While it is important to be sensitive and respectful towards the realities of parenthood, be careful not to give free passes to anyone. It will be unfair for others if working parents are given lesser responsibilities. Other colleagues without kids will end up clocking more hours at work to make up for the lost productivity. Giving special treatment to working parents will adversely impact employee morale and increase your attrition rate.
In order to maintain a positive team dynamic and culture, employees must be given an equal opportunity to contribute based on their skills and work experience, regardless of their marital status and gender.
An equal and balanced workplace can only occur if all employees receive the same level of opportunity and responsibility.
4. be open to connecting with children
As remote working becomes a reality for companies all around the world, it is unavoidable for working parents to host meetings or attend to calls at home. This means that colleagues and even clients and customers will have a glimpse into the lives of the working parents.
Just like us when we were younger, kids love to pretend that they are adults. This means that they may sometimes sit next to their parents during video calls or even participate in the conversation. If you are just having an informal catch-up with them, it would be fine to have the kids on the call too. You could even interact with the children and explain to them what their parents are doing at work. However, remind them that they should try to have calls with clients and customers in a private setting to maintain the company’s and their professionalism.
Your employees will appreciate your ability to understand their unique circumstances and you can even foster a deeper relationship with your staff.
be understanding and trust your employees
You may not be a working parent, but you are managing one. As a manager, you need to try and understand the challenges your employees face so that you can provide the right level of support and flexibility.
Working parents who have to juggle their professional responsibilities and the well-being of their kids will appreciate any support they can get during this challenging period. Your ability to empathise and show up for your team in good and bad times will go a long way in building your brand as a great leader.
What works for you might not work for others. As long as your employees are able to complete their work on time and not compromise on the quality, give them a little flexibility around when and how they want to work throughout the day.
If you need help building a diverse workforce or more tips on managing your team, connect with us for a discussion.