Small businesses can support employees with kids.
Managing a full-time job from home with kids navigating digital learning is possible, especially if businesses offer support. — Getty Images/martinedoucet

Doubts are looming over whether schools will reopen in the fall, which is causing a lot of anxiety for working parents. Larry English, author of the book Office Optional: How to Build a Connected Culture With Virtual Teams, offered the following five tips for how employers can make this transition easier.

Read More: How to Keep Employees Calm During Coronavirus Pandemic

Give parents the flexibility they need

The days of work-life balance are over, and right now, it’s work-life integration that parents really need. English says that employers should allow parents the flexibility they need to prioritize both their family and their job.

Some employees may need to start their workday a bit later, while others may need one or two days during the week where there are no meetings scheduled. Employers should do their best to work with employees and give them the flexibility they need. This is what will allow your employees to remain dedicated to their job and continue to turn in a high quality of work.

But remember, life is about more than just work. That’s why it’s a good idea to encourage your employees to take time off and engage in self-care as well.

Let go of traditional scheduling expectations

Roughly 66% of U.S. employees are working remotely at least part time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a business owner, it’s only natural to wonder if your employees will get as much done while they’re working remotely.

But Engish says now isn’t the time to demand that your employees stick to an 8-to-5 work schedule. Instead, he recommends that managers and leaders be open to flexible work hours whenever possible.

If employees block off time as needed in their calendar and keep their team informed about what they have going on, there’s no need for a traditional work schedule. As long as your employees continue to get their work turned in, let them manage their daily schedule.

Talk to your employees about what’s going on

These are unprecedented times, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to helping employees navigate remote work and parenting. That’s why Engish recommends creating an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing what’s going on in their personal lives.

Managers should be open to hearing about any challenges and helping employees navigate them. This will not only help individual employees feel heard and understood, but it will show you any areas where the company can step in and help.

It can also be useful to create a forum where working parents can trade stories and find support. This can be a great bonding opportunity for employees at your company. It will also go a long way to establish trust, which is critical to the employer-employee relationship.

The days of work-life balance are over, and right now, it’s work-life integration that parents really need.

Expect interruptions

A typical workday is not going to run as smoothly for parents who are working remotely with their children in the next room. Occasionally, meetings will get cancelled or cut short for family reasons.

Interruptions will happen, and occasionally, parents may need to attend a video meeting with their child sitting in their lap. Try to go with the flow, and accept that your employees are doing the best they can to make both situations work.

And if you feel up to it, try to interact with their kids whenever possible. This will help your employees feel more comfortable and know that you’re supporting them in their work and as a parent.

Provide resources

Finally, English recommends that employers provide resources for their employees whenever possible. Connect them with other like-minded parents who can work together to form collective home-schools, or share educational resources.

English says that you can also consider utilizing company workspaces. For example, converting a conference room into a schoolroom and hiring a teacher or learning coach to work with students.

Of course, that scenario may not be feasible for a variety of reasons. If so, you can also consider nontraditional benefits that the company could offer employees.

For instance, Acuity Scheduling made it possible for its employees to send their children to a virtual summer camp called CampCloud. That way, Acuity employees were able to focus on their work while their children were engaged in an intellectually stimulating activity.

Read More: Ways to Prepare an Office for Post-Coronavirus Reopening

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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