Homeworking and Home-schooling: Seven Ways Employers Can Support Parents

Posted in : HR Updates on 26 January 2021
Laura Boden
Think People
Issues covered: Coronavirus; Home Schooling; Remote Working; Work Related Stress; Policies and Procedures

With school closures and self-isolation meaning that parents must now also adopt the role of teacher, those employers who ignore the need for additional employee support have a recipe for staffing shortages, unproductivity, and burnout on their hands.

A survey from May 2020 found that 41% of parents working from home are finding the stress of home-schooling difficult and spending around 3 hours of their working day looking after their children, as well as spending time in the evening helping to catch up with schoolwork.

When one team member is impacted in this way, their colleagues are also likely to be impacted, particularly if morale is low or if they are picking up extra work from colleagues who are struggling. It is the role of leaders to soften this impact to the best of their abilities.   

This is a challenging time for maintaining communication with a sense of connection, but the flip side of this is a real opportunity for all employers to build trust and engagement through a human approach to leadership.

Seven Ways Employers Can Help 

  1. Managing expectations with open communication: Having conversations around personal wellbeing and demands, alongside delivery priorities and what works in terms of flexibility, will help parents keep work on track and ask for help when needed.  Ensuring communication basics are still in place such as one-to-ones, check-ins and indeed regular catch-up meetings with your wider team can help to reinvigorate enthusiasm, spark teamwork and offer an opportunity for all to personally share our experiences during this challenging time.

    Assessing the leadership style of your business and the employee experience might give you useful information to further develop your people strategy. A pulse survey with a category for working parents and caregivers might help you provide the support your teams really need as needs arise. 

  2. Being flexible: Consider if it is more important for your business that work is done between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm, or that this work is done well. Without business need, this kind of rigidity is likely to result in poor work and missed deadlines. For a working parent, they may need to take a few extra hours from their usual workday for childcare duties and complete certain work tasks in the evening or during the weekend. Emphasis on output, rather than on logistics, is a useful way to reframe our understanding of productivity. Where flexible working is not realistic, reduced working hours or furlough may be considered in consultation with the employee

  3. Make use of the Furlough Scheme: Where flexible working is not realistic, reduced working hours or furlough may be considered in consultation with the employee. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been updated and employees are now eligible for the grant is they are unable to work due to “caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing”. The above guidance is timely as CIPD reporting this month on a TUC survey revealed that 7 in 10 requests for furlough by working mums were rejected.

  4. Get creative: Might it be an option for your business to provide additional zoom classes for your workforce's kids? An online “after school club” might be beneficial for them to rest or get caught up. There is an increasing number of businesses providing these clubs and classes for a wide range of age groups including The Art and Design Factory, who partnered with Think People Consulting last year to provide free kids’ art classes for our clients’ children.

  5. Review your policies: Much of the stress employees find themselves under during the pandemic is due to uncertainty. In the interest of clear communication of expectations on employees and ensuring all employees feel that they are being treated with equity, it is important to ensure your HR policies, handbook and contracts reflect the reality of the new world of work.

    Working Families, a leading life/work balance charity in the UK, have reported that almost 100% of calls to their legal advice service since March 2020 have been related to COVID-19, and as women have been disproportionally affected there is potential for employees to make ‘COVID discrimination’ claims against employers who do not make allowances for home-schooling parents.

    Reviewing HR documents allows you to identify policies and procedures which are not conducive to the effectiveness of employees or work-life balance while homeworking and home-schooling, and then communicate updates to reassure and support employees.

  6. Upskilling your employees: It’s completely normal in a time of crisis to focus on meeting our bottom-line objectives, but it’s time to start looking up. Workshops that skill your employees in things like digital skills, personal resilience and effectiveness, coaching skills for managers and mentoring programmes will help your employees not just survive but thrive.

  7. Leading by example: It can’t be stressed enough that we are not just working from home, but rather at home trying to work through a crisis. Leaders sharing their own personal challenges help build a culture of open communication and encourage employees to be honest about their own challenges too.

    The pandemic has in many ways redefined professionalism. Let your employees know that it’s ok for their kids to interrupt team calls and if the kids want to introduce themselves, your team is likely to appreciate that extra human touch to their call. Training in Emotional Intelligence, Positive Psychology and Communication Skills may also be relevant here, for managers who wish to increase their ability to lead with empathy, and motivate and engage their teams.

Habits developed over our careers can be difficult to break, even when they might no longer work for us and our employees. The pandemic has changed how we work, and this is particularly true for working parents and all employees who may experience challenges working from home. How you accommodate parents’ work at this time will influence engagement, commitment and culture for the future. It is an opportunity to really show who you are as an employer. 

eLearning Training Resources

Managing and Motivating Remote Workers in Northern Ireland

It takes a highly skilled team leader to be able to build, manage and maintain a successful hybrid team. Challenges of managing remote workers include conflict management, finding the balance between regular check-ins and micromanaging, developing productive relationships, and securing input from all staff for new ideas. 

The purpose of this course is to provide managers of remote workers with the tools to manage and motivate their team, optimise performance, and achieve organisational goals.

Learn more >

Employee Wellbeing Toolkit

Working from home or remotely can be challenging and isolating for many people, that's why we have put together an Employee Wellbeing eLearning Toolkit for all staff in partnership with Business in the Community NI.

Courses included in this toolkit:
+ Mental Health & Wellbeing
+ Coping with Fatigue
+ Managing Stress
+ Building Resilience

I'm Interested >


This article is correct at 26/01/2021

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Laura Boden
Think People

The main content of this article was provided by Laura Boden. Contact telephone number is 028 9031 0450 or email laura.boden@thinkpeople.co.uk

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