Not a child’s play: Managing work with school
Almost a year after we started the biggest “Working from Home experiment” in history, most of us continue to work remotely and it became the New Normal. While organizations across the world have been reeling with this situation, managing teams virtually and revamping their IT infrastructure, employees have also had to adjust their personal lives. While on the one hand employees have had to learn how to collaborate virtually overnight, they have also had to deal with the added responsibility of their kids’ learning path which has now moved online.
Many thought that virtual classrooms were temporary, but now employees across the world are realizing that they would have to manage their jobs while also accommodating and overseeing their children’s online learning process. While online learning may sound easy, it takes a toll on the parents who need all the flexibility and support they can get from their place of work. Besides online learning, parents also need to provide overall childcare. According to the LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index, more than 44 percent of working mothers and 25 percent of working fathers in India, work outside their usual business hours to provide childcare.
When remote work kicked-in in March, companies rapidly made a move to a virtual set-up, providing their workforces with all the information, resources and help they needed to work from home. Now, companies also need to provide resources to help their employees manage challenges such as supporting new models for education. And this is where managers can step in. As the first point of contact for employees, they must find ways to balance business growth needs with employees’ physical and mental well-being. To achieve this, they would have to be more personal, empathetic and flexible.
The digital medium as a mode of learning is not new for us. For working parents, however, it is an uphill task. But it is vital to success in today’s uncertain and challenging times, and it can be done with some simple and powerful actions.
Exercising a people-centric approach
Many parents have had to make a lot of tough choices from in-person, hybrid and remote learning for their children, that has caused a fair share of stress and anxiety. In fact, according to another recent LinkedIn study, 39 per cent of workers in India are experiencing increased stress or anxiety while working from home. To ease some of this stress and to make them feel comfortable, managers can chat with their employees to see how they’re doing and if they need any support. Employees should also be aware of all the resources that are available to them from the organization, like financial support for childcare and employee assistance programs.
Communication and freedom to work flexibly
Trust is crucial in a manager-employee or organization-employee relationship. Even if your workforce is largely remote, give them the freedom and trust them to get the job done. Circumstances may arise that need their attention, a lot of times during work hours. Your employees may need the time to be offline so that they can take care of their children or help them with their virtual classroom set-up. Talk to them and make sure they know that it’s completely alright to tend to their kids and join back as soon as they’re free. They will definitely appreciate your kindness and support and will also reward you with better performance. You can even go a step further and introduce policy changes like no-call hours, mental health support, encouraging leaves to escape their chaotic and hectic schedules. This will go a long way in keeping them productive and happy.
Changing the mindset
A lot of managers tend to believe that their employees are only productive when they can see them. However, when the pandemic is over, employees will expect more freedom and flexibility to work wherever, whenever and however they choose.
Setting clear goals
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reimagine the way work gets done. But I think it's equally important to rethink how we measure success, to focus on outcomes as opposed to hours. Be clear about the goals and expectations that you set for your employees, and then take all the right steps to create the right environment for them. Your employees must have the space to achieve their goals. Give them digital workspace tools to guide, support, organize and automate mundane tasks. Once your employees start grasping on the meaningful aspects of their job, they can also enjoy it while they prep tiffin boxes and juggle science projects.
While work from home has been the New Normal for a while now, it is anything but normal for working parents. Virtual learning has thrown us all one hell of a curveball, and everyone will have a different way of coping with it. Irrespective of the route taken to cope, managers must make an effort to better understand the challenges of their teams and align the right support to overcome them. This will not only help them achieve individual success but will also help drive business growth.