Working parenthood has always been difficult. But remote working parenthood with a daily dose of homeschooling, all while stuck in the confines of your home, can feel like a cruel experiment to gauge your super-human capabilities. Now is the time for employers to step up.
As of March 30, 2020, 30 states and the District of Columbia have implemented stay-at-home orders, resulting in roughly three of four people being officially urged to stay home. Remote work is skyrocketing at unprecedented rates to keep businesses alive, and companies that have dismissed the idea of telecommuting in the past are recognizing (and pleasantly surprised) that work can get done amid the chaos. Such present day changes could, in fact, be a foreshadowing of the culture of tomorrow. But despite the strides working parents are making to prove remote work can, in fact, work, they are still suffering.
Atop their persistent daily stressors, working parents must now figure out how to work from home while also raising children without the aid of school or childcare. For some, that involves nap and feeding schedules paired with a heaping pail of diaper changes. For others, it involves filling the role of teacher to ensure their kid(s) don’t fall behind—sometimes for multiple grade levels. Coupled with these responsibilities is an intermingled 8+ hour workday, which often trickles into both pre-dawn and post-sunset hours. Truly, the integration of work and family life could not be any more closely intertwined than it is today.
And this support can’t be trickled in over time; immediate support is needed. Support in the form of flexibility, empathy and understanding. Support in the form of mental health check-ins, and regular team calls. Support in the form of tips to ramp up productivity, and by providing educational tools and access to coaching programs. Support in the form of the tangible resources necessary to continue to work from home, and to do so while remaining engaged and productive.
Let’s not forget about the support and guidance needed for managers, who are now being called upon to expand their leadership skills, as they support their working parent population amid this new norm. Managers need to remain connected to their team, despite being physically isolated, and they need to be available, while not micromanaging. It’s a fine line to walk. But how many managers out there actually have the necessary skills to lead and inspire a team of remote workers? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s simply a new frontier for many, and we can’t brush aside the necessity of providing appropriate direction and training for our leaders.
In the wake of this new reality, employers must confront these old—and new—challenges facing working parents and their teams, and assess how such challenges can hinder the effectiveness of their workforce. Employers can’t afford to ignore that their working parents are currently in the trenches of remote work, operating relentlessly to keep businesses alive, while simultaneously educating and caring for their children 24/7. And they can’t let the struggles of today be for naught. Sitting at their feet is a monumental opportunity to shine in a time of great need, and to advance real and lasting cultural progress for working parents. It’s an opportunity for brands to rise up as pillars in a crippled economy, in a way that will long be appreciated by their employees.
While it is difficult to view this pandemic as anything other than an unexpected war zone on our shores, we can choose to learn and evolve from this. Employers can listen to the needs of their working parents—and I mean truly listen—empathetically and attentively. Then they can do something about it. By proactively providing support today, businesses will position themselves to be stronger tomorrow. The fight is real. The need is real. And the time is ripe to do better for our working families.
This is the new frontier of working parenthood. Employers, join the movement. Be the changemaker your working parents need you to be. Offer the support and resources working parents have long been lacking, but need now more than ever. To provide this level of support to a working parent not only pays dividends for your business, but it simultaneously allows that individual to honor and express their love for their child(ren) and family. To offer this is truly one of the greatest gifts any employer can give.