Mandy Garner: How can employers support working parents during the Covid-19 crisis?

The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has thrown up multiple challenges for parents, both those who are still able to go to work and those who have to work from home.

For those having to work around childcare or homeschooling, the most important thing is an empathetic employer that understands the stresses and is able to talk to employees about the best way to work around them. Depending on the age of the children, that might mean starting work earlier, breaking off in the middle of the day, working later or working in shorter bursts over a longer working day.

It is important for managers to understand the particular circumstances individual parents find themselves in, for instance, some may not have the support of another parent to share the load with, some may have children with special needs, and parents of babies and toddlers face their own particular challenges. Managers and employees can then work together as a team to devise the best times for everyone for conference calls and keep them as brief as possible, and have contingency plans if a last-minute situation crops up.

Having a range of social media channels which employees, including parents, can access, perhaps one led by a parentsí or carers’ network, is a good outlet for people to share ideas, vent and generally let off some stress.†

Mental wellbeing is a huge issue generally, given the overload of work life issues at this time. Some employers offer e-training on mental health and make a point of checking in with employees regularly through one-to-ones via Skype, encouraging them to take frequent breaks or to exercise during the working day.††

Communication is vital at this time, for instance, some businesses signpost to school or other activities, provide employee assistance programmes (EAPs) or put on virtual social activities.

For any employee who has been furloughed, one big issue for the future is how employers can help them transition back gradually to work, which is likely to include more remote working initially. Many family-friendly employers have already developed good practice in the area of remote working support and how to help parents return to work after long breaks. Their advice and example could prove very useful in the months ahead.

Mandy Garner is editor at Workingmums.co.uk†