We have all had to adjust to new ways of working and settling into new routines during the pandemic. Those who care for children and work from home will be juggling their regular work responsibilities, child care duties and perhaps even homeschooling their children as well.
A new study shows that out of 2,000 working adults with school-aged children, 41 per cent admitted the stress of balancing school and work was becoming difficult – with many having to make up for lost work hours in the evenings after their children have gone to sleep. With the uncertainty surrounding when schools will open back up for the majority of pupils, this situation is likely to feel overwhelming for many working parents.
The parents in your team may be feeling they’re under additional stress and are working even longer hours. You don’t have to be a mental health expert to provide support or advice, but a little bit of reassurance from you could go a long way.
Here are some practical ways you can support your staff with children:
Think about the reasonable adjustments that your organisation is able to offer to staff, especially those with child-caring responsibilities, and make sure all employees are kept up to date on these policies. This could include flexi-time, carers’ leave arrangements, reduced hours or furlough – ask them what they think would work best for them and don’t forget to check in regularly to see if further adjustments are needed.
Working from home means that parents will have to be watching their children while they work, and there will be times when children will interrupt calls or meetings. Try to be patient and understanding when this happens, as your employee will probably already have worries about this happening. You could offer a different time to call back, or if there is a situation that requires their immediate attention you could record the meeting so they do not miss out on anything.
Be clear with your staff that you understand and sympathise with their situation, and the added stress it may be causing them. Ask them to get in touch as soon as they think they might need additional support, or reasonable adjustments to be made to their working day, it’s important to stay in contact and create an environment where they feel able to be honest with you.
Your staff are more than likely finding juggling work and childcare difficult, and this might have an impact on their performance. If they’re usually a hard worker and good at their job, but you notice a dip in their productivity, take the time to reach out and ask them how they’re coping.
Different children will have different caring needs, and no two families are the same. Single parents might not have an additional adult in the household to help share homeschooling responsibilities, so try to be as flexible as possible. Emphasise that staff need to put their own wellbeing and caring for their family before their workload.