26 January 2021

How to support remote workers needing to home-school

Two little boys doing school work from home during home schooling period

Following the announcement of ‘Lockdown 3.0’, many workers around the country will have found themselves back in their designated at-home office spaces – whether it be a cushty desk set-up or sat with their laptop on a sofa.

However, after it was announced that schools around the country would be closing as well, extra pressure was put on the shoulders of numerous working parents, left with no choice but to home-school their children while working at the same time.

As you may expect, this transition has not been easy and has raised serious concerns over both the mental health and working ramifications of employees trying to balance too much at the same time.

Research by MHR, for instance, shows that 33% of working parents have lied to their boss about how they are coping with home-schooling and working during the lockdown.

So, if you have any staff on your books you have noticed struggling lately because of this, we thought we’d try and help.

In this post, we will guide you through some of the most effective ways that you, as their employer, can support them throughout this trying period, teaching them how to work from home with children and, ultimately, making both your and their lives much easier to handle.


Be Flexible

Flexibility is one of the key things you need to consider – regardless of whether your employees are home-schooling as well or not.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the days of the traditional five-day-a-week 9 AM – 5 PM working model need to be temporarily thrown out the window, as it simply isn’t sustainable.

How can you expect your workers to be in two places at once, for example, teaching their kids about maths one minute then on a client call the next? Put simply, you can’t and, by putting too much extra pressure on their shoulders, you’ll only end up burning them out as a result.

So, to combat this most effectively, you need to be flexible. Give your staff the opportunity to work when they’re more relaxed and able to focus, or consider reducing their workload to take the pressure off for a little while.

Whatever you decide to do, by being more flexible with your employees, you could actually see an increase in their level of productivity and the overall quality of work they produce.


Offer More Holiday

This pandemic has been relentless and unexpected throughout, making it almost impossible to predict which way it’s going to swing next.

Similarly, with pretty much everything being closed – shops, travel corridors, access to loved ones – many workers haven’t been taken as much time off as they should, which should be a concern to you as an employer.

Holidays are vital from a mental health perspective, after all, enabling staff members to relax and rejuvenate away from work for a while. So, with this in mind, why not encourage your staff to take some more time off to help with home-schooling?

While many employees might not want to, by offering them another couple days’ worth of holiday, this could help them feel a lot less stressed about needing to juggle work, kids and play.


Reduce Meeting Times

There’s nothing worse than a meeting that goes on much longer than it needs to – especially when you feel like you have no time as it is.

Therefore, where possible, try to keep the length of your meetings down to a minimum. Set an agenda for them, get the key points addressed as quickly as possible, and let everyone get on with their day.

While there may be a temptation in the office to sit around and chat for a while, ticking down the clock until you can go home, you can’t know what is going on in each of your employee’s lives.

If someone doesn’t need to be in a specific meeting, for example, let them leave early.

Alternatively, if you have meetings that aren’t particularly important right now, consider getting rid of them for a while to free up as much additional time for your home-schooling staff as possible.


Show Your Human Side

Perhaps the most important thing you can do as an employer is to show your human side to your staff – we are, after all, going through this period of stress and uncertainty together.

Therefore, if you need to make changes to your schedule because of having to home-school your kids, let your staff know it’s absolutely fine to do that.

Likewise, if one of your staff member’s children walks in while they’re at a meeting (à la this well-known BBC interview), don’t dwell on it or make them feel bad for it. Disruptions are to be expected in the current climate, so it’s important to normalise them should they happen.

And, as a final point, hit pause on career growth expectations for the time being.

While you may want your staff to progress up the company ladder quickly, recognise their current situation and ask yourself whether it’s fair of you to expect the same levels or targets you set pre-lockdown.

If it’s not, consider giving them a break – at least until the schools finally reopen.

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Gemma Hart

Gemma Hart

Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Since graduating in 2013, Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her personal brand and connecting with leading experts.

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