Working Parents are Struggling: How Companies Can Better Support Their Employees

November 5, 2020

Employees all over the world have had to adjust to the transitions and challenges of working from home. But for working parents, the challenges, disruptions, and distractions continue to mount. As we quickly approach the Holiday season, many are anticipating (and already feel!) that next wave of pressures and commitments. 

Now, more than ever, employers need to increase their support of working families and reconsider their notions of that highly coveted work-life balance. Wearing multiple hats is not new for working parents—but wearing them simultaneously, day-in, day-out—is leading to increased levels of stress and anxiety, and in many cases, decreased levels of productivity in the workplace. 

But companies can support their employees through this. Here’s how:

Remain Flexible. Consider what meetings are mandatory and what meetings can either be merged or removed completely. 

Your employee is now working from home, their partner is working from home, and their child(ren) is working from home. Even with ample technology, which is a luxury not afforded to all, overlapping phone calls and video conferences can quickly lead to a very loud, distracting remote working space. And if your employees’ home or parenting responsibilities don’t allow for physical space or separation, noise is only one of many distractions your employee has to battle.

Those with younger children will greatly appreciate fewer live interactions as they are pulled throughout the day for homework help, snacks, fun facts, art revealings, technology glitches and user errors. It’s a lot—and if you talk to just about any parent these days, the demands are never ending. 

Your employees with older children—high school and college aged students—may also be working to help them juggle their own school and work responsibilities from home. All of this while attempting to balance and support the emotional impact of losing highly prioritized extracurricular activities, and not being on campus. They’re likely taking on the additional stress and emotional aches felt by their child(ren). 

Pro Tip: If it can be said in an email, say it in an email. 

Establish Boundaries. This one’s hard, the work needs to get done. But where possible, help your team by establishing working boundaries. 

We get it, the workday isn’t what it used to be and everyone wants to feel productive and good at their job. However, when your office is your home, it’s common to discover that there’s no end to work—nor for many, an end to the guilt of not working when it’s conveniently at their fingertips, at all times of the day. If you’re a manager of others, do everything in your power to not send emails after hours or on the weekends. And if you must, add a “Read Tomorrow” or “Read Monday” notice to the front of your subject line.

And on that note, honor weekends. Weekends are a time for recouping. If you want your employees at the top of their game during the week, they need time to step back, process information, and gather their thoughts. Nonstop work will lead to burnout; it’s just a matter of when.

Pro Tip: Write your emails when it fits your schedule, but schedule them to be sent and received during normal (read traditional) working hours. 

Listen. Every person’s needs are different, and in any situation, making assumptions can be dangerous and bad for business. 

Whether your employee is their head of household, or single and just starting their career; established in the city or a fresh company transplant; raising an infant or a soon to be an empty nester—no two situations will be the same. Each situation comes with its own set of challenges; each person, their own way of responding. 

We’re working during a global pandemic—and the simple knowledge of that alone can weigh on a person’s wellbeing. So listen to your employees, and if you’re going to make assumptions, assume the best. No one wants to find out their employee is struggling after they’ve just reprimanded their performance. Make conversations around challenges as informal as the formerly common “How’s the weekend?” And don’t forget to model this vulnerability by sharing your own challenges. 

Pro Tip: Don’t make anyone’s challenge seem small or insignificant. If you live alone and are strict in your practice of social distancing, yes, the internet crashing or your family rain-checking a FaceTime call is a big deal.

Invest in Support. And once you’ve invested, share those benefits—again and again!

When we don’t immediately need something, it can be easy to miss. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Remind your team of any employee assistance program(s) your company has invested in, share mental health and preventative wellness resources that can often go untapped in healthcare packages, and consider educational coaching supports that can help improve the remote learning experience for adults and children alike. 

Pro Tip: Schedule recurring but optional informational sessions or office hours that cover your employee benefits in greater detail, and that showcase the stance you are taking on employee wellness. 

Helping employees prioritize their mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing is good for business. It helps to alleviate stress and anxiety, and it makes the time they have dedicated to work, that much more productive. So leverage your resources to leverage your people, and we’ll get through this together.

At Selected, our Corporate Partnerships Team strives to support your company by supporting your employees. The Selected for Families network of qualified, professional teachers at Selected allows us to prepare sessions and consultations tailored specifically to the challenges arising from remote learning — whether academic and instructional, or holistic.

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