Many thought remote work and virtual classrooms would be short-lived. But across EMEA, employees are finding they won’t be returning to work as “normal” and their kids will be learning differently too. And it’s left them reeling.
In addition to managing their jobs, many workers must now find the space and time to oversee online learning and accommodate children who may be learning from home, at school, or a combination of both. And managers need to provide them with the support they need to do it.
When the pandemic first struck, companies quickly moved to provide employees with technology that would enable them to continue working in a safe and secure manner from their homes. Now, they need to provide resources to help them manage the challenges that come with doing so—such as supporting new models for education.
And this is where managers come in. As the front line to employees, they must step up and find ways to balance the company’s need to keep businesses running and customers happy against protecting their employees’ physical and mental well-being. And they will need to be more empathetic, flexible, communicative, and personal than ever.
It’s not an easy task—or one that most managers are comfortable with. But it is absolutely critical to success in today’s uncertain and challenging times, and it can be done with a few simple, but powerful actions.
Put Your People First
Talk to your employees who have children and ask how they are doing. With options for in-person, remote, and hybrid learning, many parents have been forced to make tough choices that can cause a lot of anxiety. Make sure they are aware of resources you provide that can help them cope—from employee assistance programs to financial support for childcare.
Life happens. And often during work hours. Give your employees the flexibility and trust to manage it. Let them know it’s ok to be offline for a few hours to monitor their child’s virtual classes and tend to work later when their children sign off or another family member can help out. They will appreciate your understanding and reward you for your support.
Adjust Your Mindset
Many managers believe that employees are only productive when they can see them. And this needs to change. Modern employees want the freedom and flexibility to work when, where, and how they choose. Parents juggling jobs and children learning from home need it. And research shows they work just as hard when they are given it. According to a study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Citrix, more than half of 10,000 workers surveyed in six countries said they worked the same or more hours from home as they did when working in an office.
Do Their Homework
Don’t make stressed, time-strapped employees search for information that can help them. You may have a slick portal where they can access time off policies, programs, and benefits. But parents who have taken on the additional role of teaching in addition to working, managing households, and even caring for elderly relatives may not have the time to visit it, and as a result, they might miss the options you offer to support their situations such as:
- Subsidized childcare
- Paid time off that can be taken a couple hours at a time instead of in half or full days
- Temporarily switching to part-time status Make sure you understand your company’s offerings and communicate them to your teams in emails, on Slack, and other social channels they may use and in personal conversations so they can easily take advantage of them.
- Dubai and Abu Dhabi government employees can apply to work from home if their children are attending online classes
Set Clear Goals and Expectations
COVID-19 has forced us to rethink the way work gets done. But we also need to re-examine how we measure success. And it’s pretty simple. Focus on outcomes, not hours. Set clear goals and expectations upfront and work with employees to create the right environment in which they can achieve them. Leverage technology like digital workspaces to organize, guide, and automate work and eliminate low-value tasks so they can focus on the strategic, meaningful aspects of their job they enjoy while juggling math homework and juice boxes. Streamline meetings. If it doesn’t have a clear agenda or stakeholder driving it, cancel it. Minimize emails. Ask yourself before replying to all whether you really need to, and consider a richer form of communication such as a Teams or Slack call.
Remote work is the new normal. But for most employees, it remains anything but. When it comes to managing the curveball that virtual learning has thrown and helping them adjust, there is no blueprint or one-size-fits-all plan. Managers must work to understand the unique challenges their team members face and align the resources they need to overcome them. In doing so, they can empower them to succeed and drive their business forward.