In the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned more about my colleagues than I did in the two months I spent sitting next to them in the office. What have I learned? Oh, all sorts of interesting things. For example, I now know that one member of our team has a deep love of Mariah Carey and an apartment decorated in varying shades of pink (artistic credit going to her four-year-old). Another colleague has a fascination with maps (who knew?), and yet another has befriended not one but two seagulls that come and land on his balcony. In addition to getting to know my team mates better, I’m discovering new things about myself, too. One exciting development of late is that I’m officially the first person in the company to set fire to their kitchen whilst on a conference call.

Quickly coming to the realization that I’m barely capable of taking proper care of myself, I am truly in awe of those of my colleagues who are working from home while simultaneously caring for their children. Having helped raise my brother, I have a bit of insight into what a handful kids can be – adorable handfuls, sure, but handfuls none the less. With this in mind, I got to thinking about ways that employers can support those members of their staff who are parenting while answering emails, hopping on conference calls and meeting tight deadlines. While no one knows what the long-term effects of the pandemic will be, for the time being at least, remote work is the ‘new normal’. This is an opportunity to re-evaluate the way we work, as individuals and as employees. I spoke with some Vancouver-based parents about their experience working from home. They shared with me their challenges, their successes and some of the ways their employers have helped ease the transition to working remotely.

Acknowledge it

The parents I spoke with each mentioned that an employer taking the time to acknowledge their situation was enormously important to them. An employer doesn’t need to have all the answers, but by showing awareness, a company demonstrates its compassion and willingness to get to know its employees as individuals rather than numbers.

Be flexible

Believe it or not, children don’t run 9-5. They still need to be fed lunch, still need reassurance, and, like all of us, still need human interaction, and those things don’t change just because you’re at home and trying to keep standard working hours. It’s important for an employer to be flexible on the structure of their employee’s workday in order to accommodate their parenting duties.

Focus on the outcome

Trust is essential in a work from home situation. It’s up to you as an employer to believe your employee will do what they need to do to get their work done, and to help them be successful in their new set-up. Work with your employees to lay out a clear set of expectations, ideally focusing on outcomes and achievables rather than process.

Create a community

Now more than ever, community matters. There are a number of creative ways parents are staying connected during this time (such as shared chat forums and WhatsApp groups with other parents from their child’s school) and the consensus was that these networks have proven invaluable. If you can, create networks within your organisation where those of your staff who are parents can share stories, tips and ideas.

At the end of this post I’ve included a list of resources sent to me by the parents I spoke with – I hope they’ll be useful!


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