This week the reality of juggling childcare and work was beamed across our screens. Dr Clare Wenham (pictured) was interrupted by her daughter during an BBC interview and Sky's foreign affairs editor, Deborah Haynes by her son. These vignettes expose the reality for parents who are working from home whilst looking after their children.
Before the lockdown, many organisations didn't allow parents to work from home if they were also looking after their children. In normal times, that makes sense as it's difficult to work if your toddler/teenager etc is demanding your attention or otherwise making a racket. But in these unusual times, a different approach is required and most employers have adapted.
Despite the easing of lock-down, many schools and nurseries are likely to remain shut until September. Here are our tips to help you continue to support working parents during this time.
1. If you allow staff to meet their children’s needs first, it will reduce their stress levels and may help them to be more productive overall.
2. If you can, give staff the ability to set a daily routine that works for them. Having a fixed routine does not always work if you have children. Give them as much flexibility to accommodate their changing needs.
3. Make it clear that you expect staff to be interrupted from time to time. If their work doesn't have to be done at a certain time, encourage them to do their most focused work when it's quieter. For many parents that's (very) early in the morning or at night after the children are settled or in bed.
4. Don't make a fuss if their children do interrupt them - even if it's on an important call or video conference. Colleagues and clients are aware that many people are still working from home and are (generally) much more understanding of the competing pressures many people are under.
5. Encourage your staff to prioritise and to set realistic expectations about what they can achieve and have regular catch ups to make sure they are okay.
6. If the employee indicates that they are struggling with workloads - perhaps because their partner has returned to work - consider reducing their hours on a temporary basis.
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