As if managing a virtual workforce wasn’t hard enough, a UK midwinter lockdown with schools shut for the foreseeable means that things have got a lot harder for many people – especially parents. Employees with children are now juggling their day-to-day jobs alongside childcare and even schooling from home, so how can employers help?
Government guidance for this is few and far between, leaving HR departments scrambling to do the best they can as absence management just got a whole lot more complicated. Working parents will be looking for the flexibility that allows them to take the time they need to care for and educate their children whilst still enabling them to remain productive. It’s in situations like these that rigid absence policies aren’t up to scratch. But, in the absence of tried and tested HR policies, technology can be employed to provide the perfect balance between flexibility and consistency that employees are pining for.
Ultimately businesses and their HR teams have a unique opportunity to put in place policies that make things a whole lot easier for parents. The stress of having to work a 9-5 job, while also having to help a child remotely learn, is not one that the world of work has had to encounter yet, and therefore the entire concept needs to be reviewed.
Showing some compassion, and communicating the issue, challenges, and awareness of the problem to your entire workforce is really important.
Many parents will feel alone, especially single parents, who do not have the opportunity of sharing the challenge of remote learning while working with their partner. Making sure that these individuals know that you as the business are aware of their challenges and the immense pressure they are under to not only deliver on their professional responsibilities but their children too will lift some of the worries.
Making communication work both ways can also be helpful. Asking your employees what it is they need from you as a business, will help highlight some ideas you may not have thought of.
A lot has changed about the working world since the pandemic hit. Allowing your employees’ work schedules some flexibility is another way to support your members of staff who are also juggling home responsibilities.
Perhaps allowing for earlier starts, or later finishes will help those that are co-parenting to manage both their own work, their partners, and the school work of their children. Yet what may be even more helpful is not confining your team to a specific number of hours per day or week. Introducing KPIs that allow staff to work efficiently might mean people get the same amount of work done, but with some time to spare afterward.
Introducing software that offers both HR teams and employees visibility and autonomy over their time away from work, will allow you as a business to understand who is not working and why. The right systems can provide the insight that managers need to support colleagues who may be struggling with pressures from work and home.
Communicating often and highlighting to staff the importance of taking regular breaks from work is so important. Proper rest and ‘time out’ builds a more engaged and energetic workforce and prevents burnout within teams. Alerts that signal when individuals have not taken time allows an opportunity for team leaders to encourage and promote time to relax and recuperate.
Basic absence management systems often only offer simple choices: half-day or whole day? Sickness or holiday? What businesses need is a sophisticated platform that can fairly cater for all whilst understanding the human need to put family first. Tailored and intelligent technology that acknowledges individual needs, and provides a range of 2021’s absence requirements, from self-isolation, to teach from home to recover from a COVID-19 infection is key. Technology is a vital tool in extending the human touch in a way that recognizes the endless variety of unique and personal situations we’re all dealing with as we battle through lockdown 3.0.
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Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.