With childcare spiraling into a nationwide workforce crisis, employees who are also caregivers might not always have reliable options to watch their children. The Washington Post reported “nearly 1.6 million moms of children under 17 are still missing from the labor force,” mostly stemming from the lack of available childcare. Finding a work-life balance and managing time with work and kids can be a struggle due to childcare either being unaffordable or inaccessible.
Many parents are struggling to find childcare as childcare centers are struggling to recruit their workforce, making availability for working parents scarce and unreliable. Amidst the struggle, there are ways employers can support these employees managing work and kids at home as they navigate their work responsibilities.
1. Provide a flexible work environment
Studies show that flexible work arrangements lead to company success. Fostering a flexible work environment is also key to retaining employees who are trying to find a work-life balance and managing time with work and kids. Here are a few ways to make it attainable:
- Supporting time-blocking during optimal times to work based around their home schedule. This could mean scheduling time to work without interruption during off-peak work hours like early in the morning or late in the evening, and blocking “do not disturb” time during the hours when they need to tend to children, to make lunch and get them situated on their next activity for example.
- Understanding employees’ best times for meetings and trying to work around their needs. If a meeting needs to be held during a time their children are around, be gracious and empathetic.
2. Lead with support and mentorship
Help your team members learn the importance and application of boundaries and transitions. When trying to manage work-life balance and managing time with work and kids, boundaries are at risk and worlds begin to blend. Some examples of ways you can encourage employees to build boundaries and use transitions are:
- Have a set place to work that is dedicated to work only.
- Transition from home to work with tools such as a morning routine, getting dressed in work attire, making a cup of coffee or tea, reading an article or newspaper, or anything else that invites a clear bridge of the gap between the two worlds.
- Set up the kids for success with a schedule of their own. Take advantage of scheduling time for kids to have self-play, self-study, naptime, etc. so you can have general times of the day where you can work with little interruption.
3. Set communication boundaries and stick to them
Create communication guidelines as a company or a team to understand how to communicate and when. An unrealistic expectation of a flexible work schedule is that everyone’s availability for communication is always on.
Harvard Business Review describes one way to combat this by providing communication channel guidelines, so each team member knows the best times and channels to communicate through. This helps alleviate the expectation to always respond and supports a team that works at different times of the day, particularly while the employees are trying to find work-life balance and managing time with work and kids. Once a plan is in place, ensure leadership adheres to these guidelines to maintain consistency and mutual respect for each other’s time.
4. Reframe policies with leadership buy-in
Reframe the way your company manages communication, supervision, and performance by shifting to a results-based performance method. This method paired with compassionate leadership allows team members juggling work-life balance and managing time with work and kids more flexibility to find ways to achieve and excel in the duties and responsibilities they are hired to do in a way that works best with their family dynamic.
Once the framework is in place to lead empathetically and based on results, it is imperative that all leadership and human resources understand the policies and processes so that all team members are held to the same standards. Consistency from leadership across the company supports a positive work culture.