With the latest lockdown rules, many parents must feel like it’s Groundhog Day, as they’re right back to where they were almost a year ago balancing the challenges of work and home schooling their children.
Recognising the strain this is putting on their employees, many companies are taking steps to support working parents by allowing more flexible work schedules and providing additional time off. Whilst these steps will make a significant difference and impact, they are not enough as time alone does not fully ease the burden and relieve the pressure these working and teaching parents face.
Many companies have found a flexible approach to work absolutely key to how they run their business and how they support their workforce.
A Boston Consulting Group study of working parents across five countries found that 60% were not able to find alternative care following school and daycare closures. This has resulted in parents spending an additional 27 hours each week on household chores, childcare, and education, on top of what they were doing previously, which is roughly the equivalent of working a second job.
So what more can you do? Here are four things to consider as you develop your plans to help and support your working parents during lockdown and even beyond:
1. Take flexibility to the next gear
Over the last year, many companies have found a flexible approach to work absolutely key to how they run their business and how they support their workforce. During this lockdown I’d like to suggest that you take it one step further, going into the next ‘gear’ to support your working parents.
Think about flexibility in respect to time, but also in respect to work. If, as the study above shows, they have fewer hours in the day because they’re now being asked to assume teaching responsibilities, is there anything you can do to reduce their workload in the short-term? The same study found that 50% of respondents felt their performance at work decreased based on additional responsibilities, so by addressing workload you’ll not only have a positive impact on the sanity of your working parents, but also on their performance for your company.
2. Understand their different needs
The level of help and support required will look very different depending on your employee’s individual situations both at work and at home. For some, time and flexibility are already enough. For those who feel nervous or uncomfortable teaching, they’ll need support re-learning what they studied many years ago as well as the skills (and patience) to teach. For those who lack the experience of balancing conflicting and challenging demands, they’ll need support developing these skills. The key, as with anything involving your people, is to start by understanding their different needs.
Once you do this, it’s time to develop your plans, and to help you with this part of the process, here are four examples of what companies are doing:
- Create working parent support groups/networks so that those facing similar challenges can support one another. It not only helps them feel that they’re not alone, but it provides an opportunity to share advice and ideas for teaching methods and activities.
- Lend employees laptops, as Checkatrade have done, so that their children have the technology to join online classes and do their lessons at home.
- Create activity packs for employees, as Missguided is doing with its ‘Dream Big’ creative thinking programme. They consist of weekly activity packs built around the ‘Think.Draw.Play’ concept, and with a rainbow theme. They’re available to colleagues as well as to their family and friends, and can be printed at home, or for those that don’t have access to a printer/ technology, they’re being posted to homes.
- Hold challenges and competitions, as Teleperformance is doing, keeping children busy with weekly themed activity packs and competitions. From superheroes, to space, to dinosaurs, they’re planning a variety of ways to keep the kiddies busy and engaged.
Source: Misguided ‘Think.Draw.Play’ kids activity pack
3. Share information and resources
Following on from the last point about helping parents with their teaching, one way this is being done is by providing them with information and resources. As parents are once again being thrust into this new and very challenging role, anything you can share to help them learn these new skills and have resources to do it effectively would truly be appreciated. It saves them both time and frustration, both equally important! Here are three examples of ways to do this:
- Provide employees with links to free resources such as Twinkl, who have products such as Twinkl Go and Learning Hub that include online libraries of educational digital games, videos, audio books and more that bring learning to life, and timetables of activities to help working parents both educate and entertain their children at no cost to your company.
- Create a children’s learning hub within your existing employee learning platform, which is what Getronics did in creating its global Kid’s Zone. It was created during the first lockdown in March 2020, and the company has been adding to and evolving it ever since to have sections relating to learning, playing, crafts, mental health and even cooking to educate and entertain its workforce. It was built and is maintained in-house, and has been found to be high impact and low effort, which is always a great combination.
- Finally, for any of your employees with budding space cadets, you can share this link to NASA’s Kids’ Club, which has lots of fun games and activities relating to all things outer space.
Source: Getronics’ global Kid’s Zone
4. Provide teaching ‘holidays’
Finally, we all love holidays, providing us with a way to take a step away from work. The same is true when it comes to teaching, with our working parents needing to take a step away from these new and challenging responsibilities.
You can do this in many ways, and the good news is that most cost you absolutely nothing. A great example is having storytelling sessions, where employees volunteer to read to the children through a virtual platform. It’s not only fun for the children, but who doesn’t love acting out all of the characters in these books? I even heard about how at one company the CEO is the one who reads the children the stories – how lovely is that?
Another example is to run online kids clubs, which is what Atos and Zoom did in the summer when children were home for the holidays and needed to be entertained whilst their parents were working. This is something you can do yourself, as Atos showed, by having a group of volunteers who develop and run the activities, or bring in companies who can do this for you.
Finally, if you’re a working parent yourself, here are five tips from education expert Ollie, from Twinkl.
- Like any good teacher, staying flexible and adaptable is key, so if how you planned your teaching begins to go awry, don’t panic
- Go with the flow, if your children are loving the activity then keep it going, even if it lasts longer than you’d planned. If they’re not enjoying it or finding it too easy/hard, then don’t be afraid to cut it short and try something else
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and the plans you’ve made
- Don’t feel like you have to know everything. If you get asked a question that stumps you, use it as inspiration and go research the answer together and explore further
- Let your child lead you and then jump on opportunities to create a project on that topic or quiz them on what they’ve found out
Interested in this topic? Read How to be inclusive of working parents during times of crisis.