The back-to-school challenge for remote workers

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Key takeaways

With clear communication and some flexibility, employers can boost morale and influence a positive culture for their employees. 

Whether your company has a current policy on the issue or not, the truth is most remote workers who are parents inevitably have a sick child in the other room a few days of the year. Or, for those weeks between summers camps and school starting, a kid whose eyeballs are permanently affixed to a screen. Thank you, Bluey, Coco, and Netflix for your support during this time.

Summer camps, family help, vacation and PTO are stretched to try and make sure kids are well taken care of and out of the house, but inevitably there are some challenging days trying to balance productivity at work and caregiving.

Here are some basic ways employers and managers can help:

Flexibility is key: Understand that remote workers may have unpredictable schedules for a few weeks. Employers can offer flexible work hours or project deadlines to accommodate the varying demands of childcare. Some employers offer “core business hours” so that teams can flex time before and after work as needed. For example, all employees should work from 9-3 but the 2 other hours of the day could be prior or after or a mix of both.

Open communication: Employers should encourage open communication between managers and employees and be clear about expectations. Whether your company embraces flexibility OR NOT, it’s good for employees to know. This dialogue can help remote workers feel comfortable discussing their scheduling challenges and exploring potential solutions together.

Resource allocation: Temporary assistance, such as virtual assistants or temporary freelancers, for companies with a large remote workforce can help cover gaps.

Embracing work-life integration: Acknowledging that work-life balance might be temporarily disrupted can create a healthier work environment. Embracing work-life integration – which promotes more continuity between you personal and professional life -- allows remote workers to attend to their children's needs while still fulfilling their job responsibilities.

Why should an employer support flexibility?

Boost in morale: When employers show understanding and support during challenging times, employees feel valued and empowers them to give their absolute best at work and at home, which boosts morale and fosters a sense of loyalty to the company.

Enhanced productivity: By alleviating some of the stress associated with childcare responsibilities, remote workers can focus more effectively on their tasks. This can lead to increased productivity and better work outcomes.

Positive company culture: Companies that prioritize their employees' well-being during all seasons build a positive and inclusive company culture, which can attract and retain top talent.

Strategies for remote workers

Structured routines: Establishing a predictable routine for both work and playtime can help kids understand when it's time for their parents to work and when they can engage in activities.

Designated workspace: Creating a dedicated workspace helps remote workers signal to their kids when they're in work mode. This can minimize interruptions during crucial work hours.

Activity planning: Planning engaging activities for kids can help keep them occupied and entertained while remote workers attend to their tasks.

Ask for help: You are undoubtedly doing your best with competing priorities. If you have friends, family, or a community who can help with play dates or recommend camps, take them up on it!

By offering flexibility, understanding, and support, employers can foster a positive work environment that values employees' holistic well-being. This approach not only boosts productivity and morale in the short term but also contributes to a strong company culture and long-term loyalty.