How to Better Support Parents Who Work From Home
As the global Coronavirus pandemic continues to adjust working conditions everywhere, it’s always a good idea to reflect on how your company can best react to the stresses of uncertainty and change that affect your employees. When the pandemic is finally over, there’s a good chance that many of the changes it caused will remain. This includes the push for more work-from-home opportunities.
Many people have found that working from home has advantages they appreciate, and companies have found that employees who aren’t pulled into the office every day remain as productive, if not more productive, than they would in a traditional workplace setting. This doesn’t mean that working from home is always easy, however, especially when coupled with the responsibilities parents face.
When schools and daycare facilities closed during the pandemic, parents found themselves juggling work, teaching and parenting. Some of these facilities have reopened, but there still are a lot of steps that companies and HR managers can take to support remote employees who are also parents. The benefits of the following suggestions often also apply to work-from-home employees who aren’t parents, making them even more powerful when put into action.
1. Create a Philosophy of Open Communication
The first key to ensuring your employees are having a successful experience working remotely is to facilitate open lines of communication. The home office can feel like a deserted island if workers can’t maintain a meaningful connection to the company and other employees.
A recent survey by the American Enterprise Institute revealed that 49% of mothers have felt isolated during the pandemic. The combined stresses of the pandemic, working from home and parenthood have affected women the most. Maneuvering between roles, and feeling as though they’re not doing very well at any of them, have generated powerful negative emotions that impact both work and home life.
Companies that encourage communication and provide for multiple outlets of communication will find that their employees perform better because they feel heard. While tending to employees’ emotional well-being wasn’t always a priority in business, more and more, companies that reach out to their workforce, and allow it to reach back, are being rewarded with increased productivity and improved loyalty. That makes establishing a philosophy of open communication good for business.
Some specific ways to establish communication are included below, but they all begin with companies prioritizing communication with their work-from-home staff.
2. Build a Routine, But Allow for Flexibility
Employers should provide all employees who are working remotely – but especially work-from-home parents – a routine that allows them to plan their day. One of the biggest complaints employees have about working from home is that they feel like they’re always at work.
HR managers can alleviate that pressure by having clearly-defined work days and schedules that employees can use to fit their parental responsibilities around. As Pavithra Mohan at Fast Company writes, many businesses are looking to implement flexible workday schedules. This is a great way to facilitate the needs of work-from-home parents.
No one should be so inflexible, though, that the routine can never be adjusted. Sometimes work demands different levels of attention, and sometimes, too, does parenting. Both sides of the screen need to be sensitive to the needs of the other when it comes to planning a day.
3. Provide Technological Support
Companies would do well to support all their remote employees by providing the kind of technology that makes working from home easier. Hardware like headsets, larger monitors and webcams that can provide clear, productive interactions are vital pieces for everyone who’s working from home, but especially parents who may be faced with sharing the family computer with their sticky-fingered kiddos.
Providing a stipend to upgrade an employee’s home office doesn’t strain the average company’s resources too far, and will make the transition from office work to home work a lot easier for everyone involved.
Use technology to replace some of the usual in-person conveniences. An electronic bulletin board system is simple technology for making business-specific and personal announcements. Consider establishing an anonymous digital feedback system, a replacement for the analog suggestion box. That will help your company continue to develop, and proves you’re serious about having open lines of communication.
4. Establish Outlets Like Virtual Camps and Activities for Kids
Try taking a proactive approach to help employees and their families. Some ideas include providing magic shows, film festivals, story times and tutoring sessions. Perhaps you can take advantage of the talents your staff might have, and see if anyone’s available for a virtual talent show or workshop. You’ll have an opportunity to break some work monotony, improve productivity and goodwill, and do something good for your company’s extended family.
You may also consider the ways your company can help parents working remotely navigate their children’s remote learning. There are resources that parents can tap into that make being a parent, teacher and employee a little easier. Your company can provide access to these resources, make them more easily available, and provide guidance and technology access, where possible.
5. Build Parent Support Groups
Use technology to build forums and chats where parents – and other remote staff – can experience some social time. Think of it as a virtual water cooler. It will never completely match the intimacy of office gossip, but maybe that’s a good thing.
The Harvard Business Review calls these kinds of groups “parent pods.” Within the parent pods, folks can trade ideas for mixing work and home life, exchange recipes and generally commiserate. They also suggest book clubs and travel groups, once the COVID-19 pandemic is finally over.
The important thing is that work-from-home parents get the opportunity to interact with adults, as adults. For many parents, heading to the office was the only guarantee of this important interaction and they lost it when they began working from home.
Support groups can also give parents who work remotely a chance to really express the frustrations they’re feeling. Parenting while working from home isn’t easy. But chances are, someone is going through the same challenges, and when remote staff is given an opportunity to learn from each other, the going becomes a little easier.
6. Support Pro-Parent Policies
Consider offering company support to initiatives that support parents. There are movements for a paid national leave, for example, that would benefit your employees. By taking a strong stand in favor of these policies, your company sends the message that it values working parents, especially those working from home.
Entering politics can be a thorny issue for companies. Don’t go into it lightly, and without giving careful consideration to all aspects of any proposed legislation.
Supporting Parents Who Work From Home Is a Valuable Investment
It’s too early to tell what long-term impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on working conditions, but most experts agree we are more likely than not to experience similar disruptions again in the near future. When HR managers put guidelines into place that help parents who work from home, it will always be a valuable investment, even if people return to a more traditional workplace in the near future.
Everyone benefits from an environment that lets people work at their best. Simple projects and initiatives can ensure that your employees are not just productive, but healthy and happy, as well.
Looking to Boost the Productivity of Your Remote Teams?
If you’d love to improve the efficiency and productivity of your work-from-home employees, then this FREE eBook is for you! In this eBook, you’ll discover how to utilize technology and other tools to track and increase productivity. You’ll also be introduced to some courses that can improve your team’s productivity such as communication and teamwork, leadership and management, critical thinking, and how to avoid micromanaging.