There are many times when working parents have a hard time doing the work/life balance thing. But with the stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things have gotten 1000% more difficult.
Welcome to a coronavirus-driven era of working while parenting.
For workers with kids, working from home has brought a flood of emotions from frustration to guilt. They want to continue to deliver both quality work and quality parenting. But as most enter a second month of working with kids climbing on their desks, they are growing weary.
What can employers do to support this likely significant segment of their workforce population? While Microsoft recently announced a generous offer of 12 weeks paid parental leave for their associates dealing with COVID-19 school and daycare closures, most working parents continue to soldier on, longing for the peace of a daily commute and the personal space of their office cubical.
Here are a few small ways to make a big difference for your colleagues dealing with the work/kid juggle. All. Day. Long.
1. Understand their new role as teacher.
Employees may need to wrangle a toddler, feed a baby or help a third grader with a worksheet between—or during—their work meetings. Regardless of their child’s age, they want to do this right. According to Gallup, 42% of parents worry that COVID-19 will affect their child’s education.
Offering flexibility is key. Offer the option to work some of their time early in the morning, late at night or on the weekend to allow blocks of time during traditional work hours to care for the kiddos.
2. Work family, meet home family.
It can feel a bit vulnerable to give our coworkers a direct view into our homes thanks to daily Zoom meetings and video calls. I’ve noticed, however, that when a child of a coworker “shows up” for the meeting, smiles appear and the mood of the meeting is lifted. (Bonus points from me for baby sightings!) Embrace it. Teams are going to come out of this feeling closer and stronger as a result.
3. Focus on empathy and compassion.
Unless you’ve balanced simultaneous working from home and parenting before, try not to give advice. Instead, offer support, even if you don’t know what to do. Acknowledge their struggle. Don’t tell them it could be worse, that they should be happy they have kids or grateful they still have a job. They know. But they are tired.
4. Help parents connect with each other.
Give parents a place to bond. (Remotely, for now, of course.) Help them connect with each other for gripe sessions, creative solutions and to share stories that might make them laugh, or cry together. The together part makes all the difference.
To my coworkers and all the moms and dads out there who are facing this challenging time with the added pressure of parenting little ones, we see you and we are here to support you. We’ll get through this together.
By the way, I love seeing your kids. And I confess, it’s a little entertaining to see you yelling at them with your mic muted.
Coronavirus Resources for Plan Sponsors
- Visit the International Foundation Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources page
- Catch up on the latest COVID-19 and the workplace issues from Word on Benefits
- Tune in to live or on-demand webcasts
How has your organization adapted during the pandemic? Share your story.
Ann Godsell, CEBS
Director, Professional Development Marketing at the International Foundation
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