A guide to helping your employees with children work from home

The coronavirus epidemic has sent children home across the country, leaving those working from home with more workload than anticipated.

With schools closed up and down the country, and more people working from home than ever, there has been a tidal-wave of those working from home while parenting. There is a multitude of resources and advice available for workers on how best to do this; however, there is less advice available for employers on how they can help their employees with children adjust to this time.

Employers need not fear as Acas provides advice on how best they can support their employees working from home, especially with children:

Equally, employees who are looking after children should talk to their employer, who in turn should be sensitive and flexible towards the employee’s situation.

What employers should do

Employers and employees may be able to agree a more flexible homeworking arrangement.

 This could include:

  • Working different hours

Being a parent is an around the clock job, and so working parents aren’t able to simply switch off from their children for their 9-5 when at home with them. Discussing different hours with your employees allows them to still get their work done, just under different circumstances. This could include working earlier or working with more breaks – it is up to you and your employees to decide what is best.

  • Agreeing that the employee may not be able to work a full day or week

With school’s closing, working your contracted hours can become extremely tricky. Instead of setting difficult hours for your employee to work, let them lead the conversation and find out what works best for them, so that all parties can get the best outcome.

  • Reducing work targets

Balancing working and caring for children at the same time doubles the workload for your employees, and so reducing work targets helps your workforce put their best work forward. When employees have a better balance while at home, it makes for a happier work environment, and a better relationship between employee and employer when working from home.

  • Being flexible about deadlines where possible

 Employees up and down the country are already under immense pressure to keep their kids happy and healthy during the COVID-19 epidemic. Keeping up with multiple deadlines at the same time puts enormous pressure on employees, which can lead to a decline in mental wellbeing and quality work. Similarly to reducing work targets, being flexible about deadlines provides your employees to manage a healthier balance between working and parenting, allowing them to produce better work in the long run.

Acas’ crucial advice is to have an employee-lead conversation, and to accommodate their needs wherever you can. Every child, family and situation is different, especially in the unprecedented time of COVID-19, and so it is important to understand those differences and not expect the impossible from your workforce.

What employees should do

As much as employers need to do all they can to support their workers, with employees leading the conversation, they must know what to say. Indeed has provided a guide for parents working from home, too:

  • Over-communicate

Work with your manager to set and reset expectations throughout your work from home period as it pertains to your goals and commitments. Many employers understand how difficult a situation it is and will be supportive of your need to adjust your schedule or goals as a result.

  • Practise time management and set a schedule

Block off time as needed for caregiving activities, knowing that not all planned time works out with the unpredictability of little ones. It is fine to preserve times throughout the day when you need to be a caregiver. If the option is available, look for opportunities to split time with another caregiver and build your schedule around this.

  • Set boundaries with both your work and your kids

Establishing clear boundaries and rules for you, your kids and your co-workers will help everyone understand each other better.

  • Take advantage of free resources

In light of the transition, many organisations are offering free resources, including online classes, arts and crafts and physical exercises. Here are a few:

  • Take breaks

It’s important in any job, especially when working from home, and even more so when working from home with kids, to take regular breaks. Doing so can boost productivity and reduce burnout. You might try the Pomodoro Method by focusing for 25 minutes, then taking a mandatory break for five. Try taking a short walk, doing a quick exercise video, doing a breathing exercise or other simple activities that make you feel rested.

Trying to work through the coronavirus epidemic is difficult for everyone, and so having a little understanding of how your workforce may feel goes a long way. Having a good line of communication between employers and employees means that everyone in the workforce can make the best of working from home.

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