How to Manage Employees Working From Home With Kids
Remote work is here to stay. Thanks to the double bonus of increased productivity—remote workers are 40 percent more productive than their in-office peers—and decreased expenses, 74 percent of CFOs plan to shift at least some portion of their company’s onsite work functions off site going forward.
Operations managers are not the only ones interested in increasing off-site work options. An increasing number of workers report a preference for positions that offer the option of working remotely at least part of the time. A work-from-home option can be an especially effective tool for recruiting and retaining parents of young children.
The challenge comes in effectively managing employees working from home with kids by finding a way to balance HR policies aimed at supporting parents while at the same time providing clear expectations and direction.
Avoid Caregiver Discrimination
Although not currently considered a protected category under federal employment law, many states and municipalities have started to include family responsibilities discrimination in laws guiding employment policy. To steer clear of committing caregiver discrimination and thereby making your company liable for litigation, you need to do two things simultaneously:
- Ensure that no employee is treated differently due to their status as a parent or caregiver.
- Implement family-centred policies that support employees who serve as caregivers for children or other family members.
Women in particular are apt to exit the workforce or reduce their hours when they have young children, often at the exact point when they would otherwise be thriving in their career or taking on increased responsibility. Often this step back from the workplace occurs because employers offer caregivers no other option. Offering remote or hybrid work and flexible schedules can help you to reduce this loss of talent from the workplace.
Create Policies That Support Working Parents
Traditional work schedules, policies, and expectations are not designed to allow your employees to thrive as both parents and workplace participants simultaneously. But that does not mean that talented employees working from home with kids cannot be among your most productive staffers. It just means that they are unlikely succeed unless you provide the supportive policies they need to fulfill both their roles—that of caregiver and the one you pay them for—to the best of their ability.
To ensure that you are creating the nurturing environment parents working remotely need to thrive, you need to:
- Become educated on and vigilant about recognizing signs of stress so that you can offer support when parents are feeling overwhelmed by their children’s needs.
- Consider sponsoring a parents’ support group or online chat group that is dedicated to providing tips for balancing work and childcare and allowing employees a safe space to vent to other employee/caregivers.
- Offer family-focused perks, such as stipends for meal delivery services, after-school programs, or paid caregivers.
- Reach out to parents to ask what benefits and considerations they need to perform their jobs as efficiently as possible without short-changing their family obligations.
- Offer flexible schedules that allow parents to complete their work during hours their children do not need their full attention.
- Foster a family-friendly culture that makes it clear that it is ok for kids to say hi to their mom or dad’s co-workers during work meetings or for parents to leave virtual meetings if their children need them.
- Develop or purchase kid-friendly online activities to help keep children stay occupied in fun activities while their parents complete their work tasks.
- Update and expand your PTO policy to include no-questions-asked caregiver days.
Develop A Remote Work Policy, But Make It Flexible
If you do not have a remote work policy, now is the time to draft one. Just make sure to focus on supportive and flexible guidelines rather than an inflexible set of rules. What works for remote employees without caregiving responsibilities will not necessarily work for parents with young children, and you may need yet another set of guidelines and supports for employees caring for aging parents or relatives with special needs.
Effective practices that help parents working from home maintain a high level of productivity include:
- Setting up frequent check-ins with managers or team leaders, either daily, weekly, or somewhere in between, depending on your company’s workflow and each individual employee’s project deadlines.
- Encouraging remote workers to take the same breaks they would if they were onsite, including making sure that non-exempt employees take breaks for meals as required by law or regulation.
- Avoiding late afternoon meetings that tend to coincide with the hours when most children are returning home from school and parents are preparing dinner.
- Setting parameters for availability in collaboration with working parents. These might include determining what hours employees working from home with kids will be able to jump on phone calls or chats, or what the acceptable response time for requested communication is.
- Discouraging employees from working overtime. Some remote workers have a hard time disengaging from work when working from home.
- Setting up clear channels of access to tech support for employees working from home with kids.
- Maintaining network security through the use password protected work devices and data security training.
Help Parents Working From Home With Kids Maintain Productivity
Allowing parents to work from home, especially if they are not maintaining traditional work hours requires a high level of trust between a manager and their direct reports. It also requires new ways of viewing and managing productivity. The good news is most workers are more productive offsite than they are onsite. You just need to employ the correct management strategies to support maximum productivity.
The following best practices can maximize off-site job performance:
- Focus on goals, not processes. This means accepting that you are likely to have less control over exactly how your remote team members accomplish tasks and instead empowering them to work toward benchmarks and deadlines in their own way.
- Make expectations for employees working from home with kids clear by building in rewards for meeting goals and consequences for failing to meet them.
- Consider implementing time-tracking software, and if appropriate, a project management platform as well.
- Foster social interaction and collaborative engagement by providing asynchronous collaborative tools such as Slack to keep employees connected and make them feel like they are still part of a team and an integral part of the company mission.
- Keep them informed on company values, goals, and performance, as well as how their work fits in with and contributes to their goals and values.
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