It’s been a challenging year for everyone. With the global pandemic, many companies have been struggling to reorient themselves and make the adjustments necessary to keep their businesses moving forward. And while There have been plenty of incredible stories of devoted teams coming together to pull off excellent results despite the challenges of lockdowns and work-from-home requirements, it has not been easy.
One subset group of the workforce that has faced drastically increased challenges are parents. With schools moving to reduced in-person hours and increased virtual lessons, Mom and Dad are being asked to assist with schooling and basic supervision simultaneously with what would otherwise be their workday.
A recent study by Boston Consulting Group of working parents looking across five countries in Europe and the U.S. revealed that 60 percent could not find alternative care following school and daycare closures. As a result, parents are spending an additional 27 hours each week on household chores, childcare, and education, roughly equivalent to working a second job.
Of course, this strain affects families as a whole, but it’s critical to recognize that it’s having the most significant impact on working mothers. The study also noted that women are spending 15 hours more than men on domestic labour each week. A recent McKinsey & Company study found that despite years of progress in narrowing the corporate gender gap, this pandemic has the potential to undo it all. As a direct result of COVID 19, the study found that “as many as two million women are considering taking a leave of absence or leaving the workforce altogether.”
So what can you do, as a company that cares about your employee’s output and their well-being? We’ve put together a list of recommendations that can help get you started.
Flexible Working Hours
Many companies have been striving to maintain their regular working hours throughout the pandemic, even if their employees are telecommuting. By implementing this, they help to maintain a level of normalcy and prevent burnout. Of course, if you have children at home who regularly need to interrupt your workflow with technology questions, school problems, or snacking needs, 9 to 5 may not be an option for you. By encouraging flexible working hours for all staff, you relieve the pressure on parents who may struggle to complete all their hours during the scheduled workday. However, it’s also essential to ensure that even though some staff choose to work shifted-hours, other staff are not required to respond to emails at all hours of the evening. Setting clear expectations with your employees and allowing for flexibility will lead to increased productivity, boosted morale, and prevent burnout.
Ensuring staff members feel the ability to come to you with a problem is an important component of effective management. In these challenging times, it’s crucial that you make an effort to reach out and check-in with your team. Schedule weekly meetings to receive a status update on current projects to keep individuals accountable and on track, but also consider the addition of extra time to allow for a discussion for any personal challenges they may be facing. Parents who feel understood by their employer will experience less stress, remain motivated, and go above and beyond to pull their weight and demonstrate their value.
Now that the majority of the workforce is working from home, we’ve connected virtually more than ever. An article on BBC Worklife delved into the “always-On” feeling that video meetings cause, which can lead to excessive mental stress. However, for parents working at home, there are even more aspects to consider. No doubt, the entire world laughed when a gentleman being interviewed by the BBC famously had his children wander into the room while he was on-air. Today many parents feel like they are living this reality, and their kids have become an ever-present backdrop to their professional lives. Unless absolutely essential, create a clear policy that allows participants to leave their cameras off when they are not presenting. This will help parents feel more in control and reduce paranoia due to the fear of their children interrupting.
Involve the Kids from Time to Time
A great way to help parents relieve pressure is to occasionally have the kids involved during meetings. By arranging specific “kid-friendly” sessions, you create a virtual take your kids-to-work day.This sort of interaction normalizes the challenges parents face and helps make them feel understood company wide. It can also provide a great learning opportunity for the children, as it shows them what their parents responsibilities are outside of raising their children.
Record Team Sessions
One of the greatest benefits of scheduling meetings through video conferencing is the variety of features they include. With the click of a button, you can record your sessions and have them readily available for team members who couldn’t attend the meeting. This option means that parents who are suddenly sidelined with a home-schooling situation can catch-up on everything that happened as soon as they are able. It also provides staff members with a meeting archive that can come in handy at any given time. Just be sure to inform participants ahead of time that the meeting is being recorded.
Kid Specific Programming
While there is an incredible amount of online learning opportunities developed throughout the pandemic, some companies are stepping up to offer their employees’ children something genuinely unique. Stamps.com, for example, has gone over and above to create virtual magic shows and digital petting zoos. Vox Media has implemented daily storytime over Zoom, and even their CEO, Jim Bankoff, has taken his turn reading to the kids. These examples demonstrate to parents that their employer understands their daily challenges in balancing their work along with their children’s and ensures that when these employees feel overloaded, they feel comfortable in asking for help.
Staff Parent Support Groups
Parents require a platform where they can unite with others that are facing similar challenges.A platform where they can share stories, swap strategies, and maybe even vent a little. Of course, we are all incredibly Zoomed out, and the last thing that most people want is another work-related video conference to join. However, there are some great alternatives. For most companies, working remotely has meant embracing platforms such as Slack or Chanty. These protected digital message boards are an easy way for teams to talk about project details and provide updates. However, with minimal setup, they can also double as a place for parents to connect.
Making Longer Breaks the Norm
Another great option to help parents normalize their day is to extend lunch hours or institute later start times company-wide. That little bit of extra time in the morning can help parents organize and structure their day without the added pressure of time restrictions. Skyscanner, the Scotland-based metasearch engine and travel agency, has extended the lunch hour to a three-hour break from 12-3 pm. All employees are encouraged to stop working, have their lunch and relax. By doing this, parents can help kids with their school work, get their lunches ready, and spend a quality time with their kids without feeling pressured to return to work. It also allows employees to take a relaxing lunch break and come back refreshed for the afternoon.
The most important thing to remember is to empathize with all of your employees. Everyone is facing challenging times and doing their best to accommodate a new normal. Employees have to set up a functional home office, attend numerous Zoom meetings, and collaborate on projects all while being removed from the office. Parents are making all the same adjustments yet have the added pressure of ensuring their children are properly educated and cared for. Clear communications, celebrating successes, and acknowledging everyday struggles go a long way to helping staff adapt in their new environments and thrive in these interesting times. Let them know they are an essential part of the team and that you support them.