What Employers Need to Know
“…I am working 12 hour days right now remotely and barely have time to feed people let alone do a good job keeping the kids schedules organized.”
“Understanding from work that we need to reduce our hours to support homeschooling. And support our children.”
Since late March, over 1,000* parents, primarily Moms (94%) have anonymously shared the pandemic’s impact to their work and lives. Most are working from home (71%) without childcare or on-site schools for their children (70%.) When asked, ‘what should their employer change’ overwhelmingly, they want variations of the same theme, flexibility.
They need discretion over how many hours and when they work. Ideally, in the form of: flextime and/or hours, sick leave, increased personal and/or paid time off.
Captivity is Officially Over
“Longer lunch break since I’m not only catering to myself for lunch.”
“Flexibility for kid wrangling times.”
Work has always revolved around captive time. Usually in an office or building. And pre-Covid, we were paid for hours of presence. If working from home was permitted, it meant getting the work done and being ‘on call’ during the work day.
But with entire families sheltered together, the captive model doesn’t make sense. If a child can’t access a Zoom, the dog knocks over a vase or a distressed teen wants to talk, parents want to respond. In real-time. And few have the energy to remain hyper-vigilant over the work and home needs all day long.
Everyone Needs Less Time “On”
“I still have the same 35-hour workload of meetings and managing staff and my husband is having to take over care for our one-year-old on top of project-based work.”
“Less check-in meetings. Just trust the job will get done.”
Many surveyed parents report being drained from days full of meetings. This doesn’t leave time for deep work or the dramatic increase in childcare and household responsibilities.
Before the pandemic, it was customary on a work-from-home day to let colleagues know when we weren’t available. But now, it’s more realistic to align around ‘on’ times to create space in the day. Productivity expert Alexis Haselberger said, “One thing that employers can do to create some flexibility and stability, is to create core hours. They can decide when people are going to be available to each other for meetings.” Parents want to make the best choices for their unique circumstances and remain responsive to their colleagues and managers.
And More Paid Time “Off”
“Better staffing so I could take FMLA.”
“Paid administrative leave if you have to quarantine.”
“Understanding that family and health will come first.”
Uncertain school schedules, family health and the economy have led many to hoard vacation days like precious gems. Parents want room to care for themselves or loved ones without the added worry of income loss. As Psychologist Dr. Charmain Jackman shared, “‘…People worry, ‘is my job at risk?’ Because there’s this sense, particularly from businesses that didn’t operate remotely before, like somehow you’re not working hard enough or doing enough hours at home.” Fears about job security are not unfounded. As one surveyed parent shared, “I was laid off in July, I’m pretty sure it’s because I talked to my manager about taking FMLA.” Savvy employers can preempt this by proactively offering more flexible leave.
Performance Evaluations Need an Upgrade
“Lessen the rigid productivity metrics while parents are having to teach school and work during the same hours… Don’t punish employees during this time that are struggling with performance if they have had a consistently good record. If possible, be flexible with hours so Moms could shift work around to accommodate school.”
Traditional performance evaluations are also steeped in this concept of presence. But without face-time as a proxy for work-ethic, more meaningful performance measures can be introduced. It’s time to rethink what ‘exceeding expectations’ means. Leading a team through turmoil or navigating obstacles to launch a program, even if it doesn’t meet the pre-pandemic budget or schedule, might be the most successful outcome for current conditions. And as the surveyed parent shared above, taking an employee’s past performance into account when assessing pandemic-performance, also creates more flexibility.
Parents Are Prone to the ‘All Or Nothing’ Trap
“Feeling incompetent at managing kids’ schooling while trying to work and letting down my teammates. They need me on site full-time.”
Everyone wants to be excellent at everything. And many parents, if they can afford it, decide the emotional cost of the work/home conflict without childcare is too high. Absent proactive supports or assurances from their employers, parents feel forced to choose. And many, particularly Moms, are leaving the workforce.
Build Culture at the Organization vs. Manager Level
“Better understanding by the higher ups that we have families outside of work and we do not work on a 24 hour schedule.”
Enlightened organizations don’t always have the most supportive managers. People are prone to biases and outmoded ways of thinking, even if it differs from the stated organizational values. Pre-pandemic, flexibility was usually left to the manager’s discretion. But now, organizations can elevate the importance of flexibility by baking it into the culture.
When organizations champion new ways of performing, communicating and evaluating the work, it will lead to increased psychological safety and wellbeing for working parents.
Share your experiences of how life has changed during social distance, it’s quick and the results from this study will be used to advocate better support for parents.
Employers, let us help you transform your workplace into an environment where caregivers thrive. Learn about Allies @ Work.
*Partial results from 1,093 parents who have participated in the pandemic study between March 30 and September 8, 2020.