Covid-19 has been difficult for everyone, but the pandemic has been especially taxing for working parents. With many kids now attending remote schools, parents have found themselves acting as educators, coaches, and guidance counselors on top of their 9-to-5 jobs.
As a manager, how can you help your employees who have children at home work more effectively and less stressfully? We’ve put together four tips to help.
Stress the importance of communication. Though effective communication is critical in the workplace at all times, it’s especially important during times of stress or upheaval. Over-communicate your expectations to your team members and emphasize that your virtual door is open for them, too. If they’re concerned they won’t be able to hit a deadline or are struggling with a particular assignment, make sure they feel comfortable telling you ahead of time. Advance notice is always better than rushing to meet a self-imposed deadline and risking burnout.
Shorten meeting times, or eliminate meetings altogether. Prior to the pandemic, many companies were reassessing the need for long meetings that ate into productive working time. Unfortunately, with fewer people commuting and more work time available, some firms have gone the opposite direction, packing in unnecessary meetings throughout the day. If you have a team composed of working parents, consider the fact that they may already be struggling with limited productivity. Rather than adding another meeting onto the schedule, think about ways to communicate critical information without breaking up their workflow.
Understand the working parent “time crunch.” With kids needing attention and guidance at different points in the day, many working parents find themselves with a time crunch, working in brief 30-minute windows before they are needed again. Rather than trying to push back against this structure, understand that it’s a necessary part of working with kids in the home. Think about encouraging your team to try 20-minute work cycles followed by 5-10-minute breaks to attend to their children. Or let them set their own work blocks that fit around their childrens’ schedules. Providing some additional leeway on how the work gets done will help facilitate the work actually getting done.
Provide flexible work hours. Some parents have found that the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule just doesn’t work when children are in the house. If you’re managing a team of working parents, try to give them flexibility on when they work. For example, some parents might find a 2-to-3 hour period before their children wake up or after they go to sleep to be the “sweet spot” for their productivity. Others might work in smaller increments throughout the day or even catch up on work during the evening. Understand that these adjustments are necessary and (hopefully) temporary, and that some flexibility will vastly improve both morale and productivity.
We all hope for a speedy end to the Covid-19 pandemic. But we must face the reality that, for at least the time being, we are living in a “new normal ” that requires some adjustments to our management approach. And while the pandemic will eventually end, you may find incorporating some of these new practices works well for a post-Covid future, too.