The gravity of COVID-19 has settled in and working from home has become the norm. Still, working parents are feeling the pressure, and many are struggling to balance the demands of their home and professional life.
Working from home with kids is hard, especially when schools, daycares, recreational facilities, and even outdoor parks are closed. Keeping the kids entertained and on top of their online lesson plans is one thing, but it begs the question: How are parents supposed to get any work done in the meantime?
We know that productivity matters, business continuity matters, outcomes matter. But, employers need to remember that we are all navigating through uncharted territory. Working parents, workers who care for ageing parents, and even those who are independent are all under tremendous amounts of stress right now. Rather than adding to the weight, we urge employers to explore ways they can support parents who are working from home with their kids.
Here are a few ways you can take notice and take action right now.
1. Start the Conversation
Right now, everyone is dealing with considerable uncertainty. Employers need to acknowledge the elevated anxiety that working parents and caregivers are experiencing. Setting a tone of empathy and understanding from the top down is essential. By starting the conversation, you can begin to identify and address the needs of your staff and can start to develop strategies for managing gaps as the situation continues to unfold.
2. Be Fair About Flexibility
Flexible hours can be remarkably helpful. For those with young children, working from 9-5 may not be practical. Rather than sticking to strict office hours, encourage parents to work around sleep schedules, and if they have the luxury of co-parenting, take shifts. Let your staff know that you expect disruptions, and if the kids interrupt a virtual meeting or two, it’s not going to be a problem. This helps alleviate worries and allows parents to be more productive with the time they have. Also, adjust your expectations. All of the flexibility in the world won’t increase the number of hours in a day. Encourage the employee to put sleep and wellness onto the list when triaging priorities.
3. Focus On Employee Wellbeing
Parents have enough on their plates as it is. The last people they’re thinking about are themselves. Instead of everyone calling into the next team meeting from their home office, encourage a virtual walking-meeting through the neighbourhood, on the treadmill, or through the house. Send reminders to take breaks throughout the day, to drink water, to get outside and breathe some fresh air. Now is the time to encourage employee wellbeing and lead by example.
4. Share Activities for Kids in Quarantine
To give parents a moment of relief, create an online hub of free content or educational programs that you come across. Remember, now is not the time to overwhelm your working parents with information overload. Rather than sending out notifications and emails as new resources pop up, create a running list on your company intranet or project management tool that can be accessed when it’s convenient, or when your staff have the capacity to take on more.
Here are a few of our favourites:
- A massive list of museums, zoos, and theme parks offering virtual tours: www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/travel/a31784720/best-virtual-tours/
- Hundreds of fun activities for toddlers and kids: www.busytoddler.com/category/activities/quick-and-easy/
- At-home science experiments: www.madsciencepromo.com/athomeexperiments
- Turnkey teaching tools, with worksheets and quizzes for families or teachers, available at time.com/tfk-free/.
- Scholastic’s learning journeys for grade levels ranging from pre-kindergarten to Grade 9: www.classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html?fbclid=IwAR2E_WeMQqfD4Lp9ZMP9j-fsifTvEtk999_cjhsbSmS-G-SDnh8Lo0u_HME
- For as long as schools are closed, kids can stream an incredible collection of stories from Audible, for no cost: www.stories.audible.com/start-listen
- Access to Amazon Prime Video’s family titles, free for Amazon customers members: www.amazon.com/gp/video/storefront/ref=atv_hm_hom_1_c_ZWyNDQ_fMHI51_1_1?contentId=freeforall&merchId=freeforall
As we navigate COVID-19, employers play a central role in supporting the wellbeing of working parents and their families. Fortunately, Cenera’s HR Advisors are here to help. If you need support in developing, adopting, or expanding family-friendly policies and attitudes throughout your organization, call Sheri Brake at 403.294.3780 today.
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