How to Help Your Team Manage Work & Virtual School

A recent poll showed that having kids at home when a parent is working remote is a distraction. MIT Sloan calls it “one of the most pressing management issues of the COVID-19 crisis.” How can employers help their remote teams handle work and virtual classes?     

Helping Workers Cope with COVID Learning and Work    

By March 2020, a great experiment had begun. Many American workers were remote and in COVID-19 quarantine while also coping with children at home and in virtual classes. For some, things normalized as kids went back to school. As the fall approached, COVID spikes caused many students to resume virtual education back at home—if they ever left at all.   

This is a problem for many employers because it’s natural for employee productivity to suffer if a parent is juggling virtual learning and remote work. MIT Sloan Management Review suggests that the boundaries between work and home life need to be clear for all your workers. Work-from-home parents should establish a routine with work that perhaps sets up an office or other boundary that your children know is off-limits. They suggest three quick wins for employers who need a way to help support their workers during this difficult time. They include:  

Empathizing with the employee’s situation.

Companies are creating workforce management tools that survey home-based workers to determine what pressures are drawing away their attention from work. These surveys uncover things like social isolation for single workers. Setting up regular virtual coffee breaks where employees can chat casually is one way to overcome this. The surveys also uncovered exhausted parents who have a hard time focusing in the morning as they get their children ready for virtual learning. Managers can empathize with these situations by signaling that the parent doesn’t need to work 9 to 5 but could have a more flexible schedule as long as the work gets done.  

Communicating with employees to understand their new norms and what the challenges are.

Companies can leverage HR to train managers to creatively work with their teams to help them cope. Companies can also communicate a policy that it’s okay to not respond to after-hours Slack messages, texts, or emails. This could give remote employees permission to draw a line in the sand between during work/after work. HR could even regularly share tips with employees about how to manage childcare, homeschooling, and work. Some suggestions include:  

    • Getting up early to accomplish one or two critical tasks before anyone else is awake.  
    • Creating designated workspaces with rules that let children know they are to entertain themselves when Mom is in her office.  
    • Organizing your day like a camp director, with whiteboard schedules, setting timers for activities, and more.  
    • Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for this environment. Some employees may need mentoring and coaching during this time. Other employees may not. People respond individually to the COVID-19 crisis and the big changes in workflows that the pandemic has caused. Management must tailor their responses to fit the appropriate situation to help their employees cope.  

We Can Help You Navigate These Uncertain Times

We are living in challenging times, and employers have faced some big changes in the ways their employees’ work. ADD STAFF is committed to helping your employees, and your business thrive during the pandemic—and beyond. Contact us today to see how we can help you.