The Biggest Challenge That Businesses Are Facing in 2020

And how to solve it.

Posted Aug 24, 2020

As we approach the final quarter of 2020, I can predict the number-one issue that businesses are going to face as a fallout from the pandemic: parents at the end of their ropes. That is, your employees who are parents. 

We’ve all been through a lot, but parents, especially those with young children, have been hit especially hard. Everyone’s life has been upended; multiply the impact for parents by the number of children they have. 

As one who has balanced homeschooling with work for over two decades, I can tell you that it takes a lot of trial and error, the development of specialized time-management skills, and mindset shifts to recognize the rich learning that happens in the margins of life. 

I chose this lifestyle, but when it’s forced on you, it can be a total shock to the system. As school schedules roll out across the country, parents are getting more and more anxious. They dealt with the uncertainty of last spring. They dealt with a summer without camps. And they are stressed about the fall. 

Have you ever tried to teach a group of 6-year-olds over Zoom? I have, and it’s not easy; it takes very special skills that differ from classroom teaching skills. Do you know how stressful it is as a parent to try to compel your active 6-year-old to sit through even 20 minutes on Zoom without getting up or changing their background to a beach scene? 

Your employees who are parents are likely not keen on the set-up for this fall. They’d prefer to go to work, do what they do well, and operate at peak productivity. If they haven’t quit yet, they need their jobs. They want to do well on all fronts. They want to nail their jobs, and they want their kids to keep learning.

Here are four ways you can help support this continued stressful situation to create a win-win for employee sanity and overall company productivity. 

1. Be Flexible

In my Work From Home With Kids and THRIVE courses and webinars, I recommend that parents block time for high-concentration work based on the energy level of their household. In other words, they should reserve time to do their most crucial, high-focus work when they are least likely to be interrupted. 

This might be at 5 a.m. before everyone wakes up or midnight after everyone else is in bed. Perhaps if their kids are older and engaged in classes, it’s during the day. 

Peak work time will differ for each individual, and it’s important that managers and co-workers recognize that their parent colleagues can demonstrate accountability even on a revised schedule. 

2. Minimize Zoom

As I wrote in this article, it’s important to know when video is a truly necessary element of remote-work communication. Evaluate the purpose of each meeting and schedule Zoom with caution. 

Asynchronous communication is not always possible, but it does provide more flexibility for parents who are juggling. Phone calls can also offer a more flexible option, as parents might be able to tend to children’s intermittent needs while taking part in a non-video call. 

3. Provide Professional Development Dollars to Help Work-Life Balance

When the pandemic hit, we experienced a needed influx of #WFH (work from home) resources that covered topics like how to structure your time when you’re not at the office, how to set up a background for video conferencing, and how to avoid the refrigerator. 

The added WFH elements that parents need are specific skills, mindset shifts, and structures to help them stay sane and productive amidst what could easily be chaos. Make a small investment to help your parent employees succeed. 

4. Provide Learning Resources for Families 

Most schools are going virtual this fall, and most virtual learning isn’t enough to engage a kid for more than half a day—especially the young ones. 

Has your company considered adding some benefits to specifically support your employee parents, who now have to figure out additional ways to keep their kids learning and busy every day? What about some Take-Your-Child-to-Work-Day types of virtual enrichment?

Last spring, Google gave each WFH employee $1,000 toward setting up a WFH office space. Why not do something similar for children’s learning resources? This may be a fraction of the additional money that parents will have to dole out this school year to supplement, but it will send a clear message that you understand their pain and want to support them. 

These four tips won’t solve all the dilemmas that WFH parents are facing for this school year, but they will certainly relieve the stress and help your employees who are parents—and therefore, your organization—continue to move forward even in the midst of constant change and uncertainty.