How to support employees who are working with kids and family at home

Family comes in all forms, and in day-to-day life, many operate on autopilot, with roles as caregivers, breadwinners or both. In the past two weeks, that has likely come to a screeching halt or veered in drastically different directions. Some people are educating school-aged kids while also working remotely; others might be juggling a toddler and extended family. Suddenly, a lot of people have too much going on around them. 

Not only is being supportive the right thing to do, implementing policies and practices that reflect those values can be good for your employer brand and retention. Here are three strategies employers can utilize to maintain productivity and support employees as life adjusts during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Be proactive 
If you manage employees who have children or provide care for others at home, ask if they would like to setup time to discuss workflow and an ideal working environment. Think about what resources your company might be able to provide – deals on technology, access to kid-friendly learning tools or anything else that might help your employees balance caregiving and work.  

Suggest breaking up the day into non-traditional shifts, or designate certain times of the day as meetings-only or quiet time for your employee to accomplish tasks. Create systems for employees to connect, like messaging channels or virtual coffee breaks. 

Additionally, consider how your company culture comes across in job descriptions and interviews. Law prohibits employers from asking about a candidate’s family situation, so make sure descriptions, company profiles and the interview process make it clear your company is dedicated to flexibility and employee support. 

Be open and communicative 
Let your team members know they can come to you. You can’t assume that your team feels comfortable bringing up what are typically outside-of-work issues, especially if you have a large team or don’t usually discuss personal lives in the office. Everyone’s “normal” has been upended, and it’s time for leadership and management to open the virtual door. Send an email, schedule a meeting or utilize your standard communications channels to share a message of inclusivity and understanding. This should be sent to all team members, express gratitude for the team’s hard work and flexibility, and detail that in this current climate, everyone is juggling more than usual. Outline any proactive measures being taken to be accommodating and make it clear you – or all leadership – are available for open discussions. 

Be patient and flexible 
It might take time for new workflows to feel familiar. Know that everyone is doing their best and trust that your employees are still dedicated to doing a great job. If a screaming toddler makes an appearance on camera, or your employee needs extra time to complete a task, understand they are still committed to their role and are problem-solving to balance priorities. Being proactive, communicative and open will facilitate these levels of flexibility and might increase productivity, as workers feel supported in all facets of their life. 


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