4 ways to support work-from-home staff members with kids

Employees aren’t the only ones being sent home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Closed schools and daycares mean many remote workers will need to contend with children in the house. While maintaining productivity in such an environment poses challenges, employers can help.

Here are four ways your company can support working-from-home parents during this unprecedented crisis:

Offer flexibility

As much as possible, allow people to arrange their schedules to best suit their situation. Some parents can get a ton of work done in the morning before the kids get up or in the evening after they go to bed. Others may be able to accomplish significant amounts on the weekend when a spouse is home to share childcare duties.

Being accepting of certain interruptions during the course of the day can help, too. For instance, let an employee take a 5-minute break to get her 9-year-old set up on his e-learning material. He will be occupied for the next hour or so, and your grateful worker will be in a better position to concentrate.

Focus on results

Avoid the temptation to use time in one’s seat as a measure of success. People can log in or stare at a screen without really accomplishing anything.

Instead, come up with goals and measurable ways to judge productivity (deadlines met, quality reports turned in, number of phone calls made, etc.). As long as those standards get met, don’t worry about where someone is at every second. Workers appreciate this trust and the freedom it allows them to deal with situations that arise in the house without fear that management is trying to “catch” them away from their desk.

Provide ideas for handling the arrangement

A wealth of information exists on how parents working remotely can better cope with the situation and get more done. Unfortunately, many people do not have time to search for solutions amid the chaos.

Do some of the legwork for your staff. Find relevant articles to share, such as this one put out by FlexJobs called “How to Work from Home with Kids during Emergencies: 11 Tips.” Also, consider establishing a channel on your company’s communication platform where colleagues can share advice on what is working for them.

Demonstrate empathy

An easy and effective way to show you care is to ask each individual the simple question, “How can I be of assistance during this time?” Responses can alert you to other areas where parents working from home could use a hand.

Also, acknowledge that many people are finding this crisis quite challenging. Remind everyone that your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free, confidential source to turn to if feeling overwhelmed.

Lastly, try to turn lemons into lemonade. A manager who can laugh when someone’s toddler wanders in during a video conference decreases the chagrined parent’s stress level and increases worker loyalty.