Working from home can be challenging enough for some, now add the challenges of homeschooling along with it.
Life is asking a lot of all of us at the moment but something employers and leaders can do is provide an environment and culture, albeit online, that helps parents going with homeschooling balance the extra challenge they now face.
There is no set formula to getting this right, no best practice guide we can share with you to provide you a clear path to success. This will be a bit of trial and error for exactly what works for you and your team.
We have created below some tips and tricks which can really help you take a proactive step in positive leadership with homeschooling workers.
1. Create a focus on results as opposed to routine/working hours
To be successful, employees working from home while also managing the requirements of homeschooling also need flexibility.
Yes, this means giving them more leeway to tend to their families during the day will force you to sacrifice some control over when and how they do their work.
But knowing that you are flexible gives your employees permission to do whatever it takes to fulfill their competing roles and responsibilities within the most logical timeframe.
This may look like an employee sending you an email at 2 a.m. while feeding a baby or taking an afternoon break to do schoolwork with one child while a younger sibling naps.
And that’s OK.
Giving schedule flexibility means weighing your employees’ ability to meet business needs over their ability to work continuously from 9 to 5 (or whenever you would normally expect them to be in the office).
Can you loosen up schedules and still answer “yes” to these questions?
Are your employees producing quality work?
Are they taking care of clients appropriately?
Are they getting the job done?
If so, you can be successful in offering flexibility while still holding your employees accountable to their work.
2. Normalise disruptions
Ever since the video of the toddler interrupting a live BBC interview went viral in 2017, there's been this softening around the perception of professionals who are also parents. No one was aghast by how an expert in his field could allow this to happen, and no one respected him less. Rather, people warmed to him knowing the plight of working in the midst of kids. And it's of course possible that the reaction would have been different (perhaps it wouldn't have gone viral) if the talking head were a woman (and that's a separate topic), but the truth is that people long for glimpses of humanity. When leaders let their people see behind the curtain - even if there are messy workspaces and messier kids there, everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
Model behavior. Have leaders openly share their schedule modifications so others feel empowered to do the same. When executives show the human side of what we're all dealing with, employees feel like they've been granted permission to do the same.
Make breaks a badge of honor. Encourage the use of status indicators - like a fork & knife for lunchtime or a school bus for helping kids with homework - on workplace communication platforms like Slack. Parents today are internalising enough stress and guilt as it is, so there should be no shame in having to take a 30-minute (or more) break for healthy eating or helping to educate the kids. When employees see others using their lunch or school icons, they feel empowered to do so too.
3. Keep camaraderie alive
A great way to support employees who are working from home with their kids is to provide opportunities for them to connect with the team virtually with no formal agenda. Social check-ins can improve morale and encourage your team to maintain good rapport while working apart.
For example, you could host a Zoom coffee break monthly or even more regularly if it seems appropriate. Keep these short (i.e., no longer than 30 minutes) so they’re easier to schedule and commit to.
For an unscheduled option, consider starting a Slack Channel or email thread about a fun topic, or even start a game. The only rule is that it can’t be work-related.
For parents whose work breaks consist largely of taking care of children, pausing for some social interaction with coworkers may be especially missed during an extended season of telecommuting.
4. Offer emotional support
If you were to poll parents working from home with their kids on what they wished they could hear from their managers, a top answer would likely be:
“We’re going to get through this.”
Offering empathy and reassuring the parents on your team that you’re committed to working together to make their responsibilities doable lifts a huge weight off their shoulders.
This is especially true when it’s you, the manager, who takes the initiative in conveying this message (rather than providing that support in response to struggling employees who reach out in distress).
When you communicate that you believe your employees can balance everything that’s on their plate, it reinforces their belief in themselves. Verbalising your understanding gives them much-needed peace of mind and empowers them to find the strength they need to rise to an extreme occasion.
Also remind them its ok, if they are not ok. Help them with local support options or national services like lifeline and beyond blue if you feel your team member needs additional support.
5. Reset communication expectations
Another key piece of accountability when managing parents working at home with kids is setting clear expectations for how communication should happen between you and your remote team.
You should absolutely expect frequent, open communication. Let your employees know they’re in charge of regularly sharing what their telecommuting situation looks like and what they might need from you to make things more manageable.
Establish some core times when you can count on your remote employees to be available for meetings and quick e-mail responses. Even your busiest work-from-home parents should be able to carve out some key hours of availability each day.
In a sense, you’re continuing to hold your individuals accountable for their performance, with an increased level of flexibility.
Furthermore, telecommuting with children, partners, and pets at home makes it impossible to hide the conflicts of interest inherent in being a working parent or simply a person with any loyalties outside of work. Allow your conversations and interactions with your team to honestly create space for those realities.
Take it one day at a time
Leading remote teams has always been challenging work for managers. Leading one alongside an upended schooling system is even harder.
Take on the unique demands of the situation one day, one employee at a time. Commit to supporting them in every way possible. And remember: you’re going to get through this.
Remote Manager Assessment (powered by Great People Inside)
This period marks the largest employee migration, in history, from traditional work settings towards working from home. Being a leader has never been easy, let alone in times of crisis like the one we are facing. Remote teams pose a new challenge to managers. They have to know how to capitalise on the potential of those they manage remotely. The effective manager who leads remotely will have as his/her main concerns team communication and motivation, as well as building trust, for the team to achieve the performance set out.
The GR8 Remote Manager assessment provides key information on the efficiency of the manager in leading a remote team, evaluates their ability to manage different work styles and create vision, motivation and momentum in a remote team. The assessment provides development suggestions and coaching for maximising the results of managerial work.
Talk to the team at DreamStoneHR about your Remote Manager Assessment or any other remote working strategies we can support you with.