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Working with Children at Home

Let's talk about the elephant in the room (or more accurately, the child in the home office).

You've communicated with your team about how to move forward with the work you're doing; you've set up the technology to enable virtual meetings and document sharing; you've given your employees the resources they need to complete their work.

But many of your employees have an entirely new set of responsibilities at home: a school-age child (or baby, or preschooler) who is also adjusting to a new, quarantined world. To say that juggling full-time work in a new, remote setting while also guiding a child through activities or school work is challenging is likely the understatement of the century. So, how to make all this work...work? While every family, child, and job is different, we're offering a few tips below for both employers and employees to keep in mind.

1. Adjust expectations of what productivity looks like. Most parents who have a younger child at home are not going to have full blocks of time between 9:00 am and 2:30 pm right now. That doesn't mean they won't be able to work, but it does mean that employers and employees will need to collaborate to figure out what the best working hours are.

"Everyone is going to be less productive during this time," Cheryl Wischhover writes in Vox. "Being proactive with employers and co-workers and setting realistic expectations about what you can accomplish is necessary to prevent misunderstandings down the line."

2. Parents may need to reevaluate their standards. Many parents have firm screen-time rules; some don't allow any screens during the school week, some cap it to 30 minutes a day, some tie screen privileges to completing chores and school work. Whatever your system is, be prepared to adjust it (if you haven't already).

Remote learning is going to lean heavily on screens, whether it's through class meetings over Zoom or educational videos. Depending on the age of your child and guidance from their school, you may have latitude to pick educational videos aligned with their strengths and interests. Here's a list of free resources parents can access right now. Online gaming (at an age-appropriate level) is also a way for kids to connect socially, as is FaceTime. Either way, parents will need to incorporate some flexibility when it comes to screens.

3. Employers can help with childcare. No, it's not typically part of an employer's role to offer childcare resources, at least in the U.S. - although Forbes writes that some companies see childcare as solid investment when it comes to recruitment and retention. HR policies aside, this is an exceptional time, and employers can find ways to offer support for working parents that may not cost very much, Forbes reports. Some ideas from the article include:

  • Create a WhatsApp or other online group, where employees can exchange information about nannies, babysitters or available spouses who can support employees living far from their own families and are therefore without immediate family support. Asking elderly relatives or grandparents for help should be questioned at this time.
  • Give your employees vouchers for babysitting services like Bsit, Care.com, Urban sitter, or others.
  • Contact a babysitting or nanny agency and hire a pool of nannies for employees to use.
  • Some small companies even allow their employees to take turns watching each other’s kids. Imagine a group of 5 employees, and every day of the week it’s someone else’s turn to have the kids over, and the one that is on “duty” still has a paid day of work from the employer, recognizing their contribution to the organization.

Are you an employer with lots of parents at your company or organization, or an employee trying to balance kids at home and work? Let us know your ideas, challenges, and thoughts about that and other telework topics!

Does your workplace need customized support to create a remote work structure? Movability can help! Contact Kate Harrington to learn more.