Working parents have potentially 2X remote working problems. They have to juggle both their kid and work responsibilities. But that’s easier said than done. Imagine working with utmost focus, and your toddler starts crying non-stop. Or being in a meeting and being constantly distracted by your kid.
The best employers recognize these challenges and solve them. How?
Here are the five ways to get started:
1. Let them choose their working hours
Unlike employees with no kids, remote parents don’t have the luxury of working the traditional 9-5. There’s too much involved to get their work done in that time while juggling kid responsibilities.
They must ensure the kids eat, do their homework, and hope they don’t spill milk on the carpet—forcing the parents to sacrifice their rest (which can cause burnout) and work while the child sleeps or is playing outside.
So, what’s the alternative?
Be flexible with their working hours. Let them work whenever they want as long as they complete the tasks before the deadline. Focus on results over routines.
2. Reset communication expectations
It could happen that working parents don’t reply to messages within hours because they were busy attending to their kids. But you also want them to engage in open and fast communication. This is a dilemma, right?
The solution is to establish core hours for frequent and open communication. Tell them when they should be present to communicate—so they carve time and are present for meetings and quick conversations over email/Slack.
For example, you can set a policy where all remote employees are available between 2-4 pm. Ensure you consider different time zones when you set the time.
Also, ask them to share weekly updates answering what they got done that week and what they’ll work on next week. This way, you’ll know their work progress.
3. Be empathetic
No matter how much you and your working parent try, they will run into issues due to their kids. Sometimes the kid will run over the Zoom call unexpectedly. Sometimes the parent may reply to an email a few hours late due to managing their child. You could also hear kids crying in the background during a meeting.
As a leader, you should be considerate toward these issues and try to assure parents that it’s OK. For example, you could say hello to the kid when they interrupt a meeting and give a few minutes to the parent to gather themselves and their thoughts. You shouldn’t scold or shame a parent when they submit work a few hours late (of course, this shouldn’t happen frequently).
You can even build a community to support your working parents. For example, Zapier has a parent-only Slack channel “where folks share pictures, advice, and stories about parenting life.” Or you can build a team culture where non-parent employees chip in to help with some tasks.
4. Provide time off to rest
Parents have two jobs—handle their tasks and kids. So, it’s natural they will be tired and mentally exhausted. You can offer time off once every six months to help them recharge. It could be as simple as providing them with a paid week's holiday.
Another way of doing this is to approve a parent’s holiday request to help them improve their mental health. You shouldn’t restrict this policy to parents only. Allow all your employees to take time off to reenergize, better their mental health, and come back refreshed.
5. Discuss what problems they are facing and how you can help
It’s better to ask the parents about their common problems and ways of how you can help than guessing and implementing wrong policies.
Maybe they need some resources/tools. Or an update on PTO or childcare policies. Or need you to design their schedule more conveniently. Similarly, it could be many different things you might not even consider or be aware of.
Discuss these (and more) issues with working parents, and find the best solution for you and them.