How to Support Remote Working Parents During Back-to-School Season

Use these 4 strategies to keep your company’s remote working parents balanced, productive, and happy.

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The fall season is well underway and with changing leaves comes changing schedules for both parents and their children. For adults that work remotely, having the kids back in school is likely bittersweet. On the one hand, it frees up time during the workday; on the other, it means juggling pick up, drop off, and elementary math homework after dinner. The back-to-school shift is even more chaotic for parents with lingering fears of COVID-19 outbreaks ending in-person instruction. For parents with children continuing online education, there is a tug of war between focusing on work and helping their children learn — a battle that is ridden with stress and guilt.

The reality is that remote work isn’t going away anytime soon; in fact, projections point to a sharp uptick in the number of remote workers in the United States. Upwork estimates that by 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be remote — increasing 16.8 million people from pre-pandemic rates. In an uncertain and hectic world, parents that work from home have a lot on their plates. To keep employees balanced, productive, and happy during this phase, employers should consider these 4 strategies.

Support working parents

Employers should implement these 4 strategies to help working parents maintain a balance between their personal and professional life during back-to-school season.

1. Keep communication flowing

For employers managing a team of remote workers, it’s essential to keep open and direct communication flowing at all times, especially during the beginning of the school year. Take some time to meet with employees one on one to understand their schedules, obligations, remote work challenges, and limitations. Identify how you can accommodate or improve their situation before it becomes problematic.

For example, if an employee needs to drop their child off at school at 8 am, it would be helpful if meetings were pushed off until 9 am. Additionally, if a worker has soccer practice every Wednesday evening, they will probably have issues making it to a company happy hour. Understanding employee schedules, communicating about hardships, and providing flexibility go a long way towards ensuring that working parents are performing their best.

2. Encourage work/life balance

Work/life balance is crucial to employee satisfaction all year long; however, it’s even more imperative during the back-to-school season. There are several ways that employers can encourage work/life balance, including having clear expectations about work hours, leading by example, and implementing project-based work.

Employers can help remote employees avoid burnout by setting clear expectations about working hours. If your employees should be available from 7 am to 4 pm, make it clear that you do not expect them to work outside of those hours. Many employees follow the unwritten rules that become ingrained into a company’s culture. For example, while work hours may be 7 am to 4 pm, if everyone in the company seems to keep working until 6 pm, they are likely to follow suit or risk appearing “lazy.” Employers should support a healthy work/life balance by leading the way themselves and hanging up their hats at 4 pm or whenever the workday ends.

Additionally, instead of encouraging your employees to work more hours instead, encourage them to work more efficiently with a project-based work model using project management software to track deliverables.

Instead of encouraging your employees to work more hours instead, encourage them to work more efficiently with a project-based work model using project management software to track deliverables.

3. Offer flexibility

These days, more than at any other time in history, employees expect flexibility in their work hours. When employees keep the lines of communication open, there is an opportunity to accommodate employee needs. Employers should work with their employees to build out a schedule that allows them to meet their professional and personal obligations.

For example, some remote workers might need to work 9 am to 5 pm versus the 8 am to 4 pm schedule that works for others. While it’s only an hour shift, this change can mean the difference between taking their child to school or having to scramble for other transportation. Additionally, for parents who have to stay home with sick or quarantined children, employers should offer ample vacation time or allow workers to make up hours later in the week as needed.

4. Embrace technology

Certain technologies can make managing work easier for employees who are going through life transitions, like back to school season. Project management tools, learning management systems, and HR self-service tools are just a few resources  remote employees can utilize to maintain productivity under stress. The best way to keep remote workers organized and track deliverables is to use cloud-based project management software. There are various tools to choose from like Trello, Monday.com, or Asana, and they all work similarly.

Back to school season is challenging for all parents, especially for working parents during these uncertain times. Luckily, though, employers can do a lot to help their workers avoid poor work performance and burnout by embracing technology, offering flexibility, encouraging work/life balance, and maintaining communication.

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