LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 15, 2020) — Due to the novel coronavirus, offices and child care services began to close for what was originally thought to be a temporary hiatus. Now, months later, as reopening phases are underway across the nation, a lack of care options persists as summer camps and day cares remain closed.
For millions of Americans, under various shelter-at-home orders, children’s playrooms and office spaces have merged, essentially making every day ‘Take Your Child to Work Day’ with no feasible end date in sight.
Parents with kids at home are stretched particularly thin, as they squeeze work responsibilities in between child care duties. Azetta Beatty, Work-Life manager in Human Resources at the University of Kentucky, understands it can be challenging for parents. Beatty believes that with the help of Work-Life and resources available in other areas across campus, parents can more easily tackle the balancing act that is working from home.
“There are so many variables to consider when creating a work from home routine, and it’s important to give attention to the full picture when determining how to assist and support our parents,” Beatty said. “In the midst of it all, parents have to find a way to take care of their children while also taking care of themselves.”
Before the pandemic, 2.5% of U.S. employees teleworked full time, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Now, almost everyone who can telework is doing so.
Research indicates there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to working from home. Everyone now working from home faces challenges, from young and college age children being home to adjusting to virtual collaborating with co-workers.
Beatty recommends creating a schedule so that all parties working from home have a routine work time. Creating set working hours and sticking to them as much as possible is essential when working remotely.
Beatty also recommends the following tips for working from home with young children:
- Do not try to do everything.
- Set reasonable expectations for yourself and your family.
- Stay organized.
- Make sure the family knows about the work routine.
- Set reminders for self-care.
- Plan ahead.
For those with older children at home, Mary Chandler Bolin, director of the UK Counseling Center (UKCC), believes the tips above still apply, but also recommends acknowledging the hardships and accomplishments the family has had and resetting, allowing the family to more smoothly move forward with their reinvented normal.
“Some parents and children may initially benefit from taking a moment to pause, exhale and mark the end of the academic year — perhaps celebrating and perhaps also grieving the unplanned and unwanted changes which the pandemic forced on families around the world,” Bolin said.
To best support working parents during these uncertain times, UK Work-Life and the Family Care Center has several free resources available to further help with the transition.
- UK Working Facebook Group
- Flexible work options
- Work+Life Connections Counseling Services
- Midday Mingle
Now that guidelines have been established to help parents work from home, Beatty also notes that it is just as important to learn how to disconnect from work. This has become more challenging than ever now that workspaces and living spaces have also merged.
In a survey of 1,001 U.S. employees working from home, results found that one month after their offices had closed, nearly 45% of workers said they were burned out, with almost half attributing the challenge of juggling personal and professional life and a lack of communication and support from their employer.
Beatty notes that it is imperative that families set aside specific times when work does not interfere with family, such as dinnertime, and when family does not interfere with work, such as a block of time in the morning and/or afternoon.
“Having your home and workplace together makes it challenging to set realistic boundaries,” Beatty said. “Disconnect from work. Taking time off to rest and recharge will keep you more engaged and productive in the long run.”
Maintaining employee morale has proved difficult during the pandemic, said two-thirds of human resources professionals surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management earlier this month.
Both Bolin and Beatty note that it is extremely important that parents are having honest and regular conversations with their supervisors and teams regarding work-life balance needs, how they can best contribute and opportunities for flexibility in work schedule and tasks.
To help with that, Beatty urges supervisors to show grace.
“How you manage and support these working parents — many of whom are acting as teachers as well — over the coming days, weeks and potentially months may determine their productivity, engagement and retention with your organization for the long haul. And more importantly, when this crisis passes, your people will remember how their leaders responded at a time when they needed you the most.”
Beatty suggests that supervisors:
- Ask what their team needs.
- Create flexibility instead of changing policies.
- Focus on most important work.
- Make meetings shorter.
- Move deadlines to open of business, not close of business.
- Set clear and individualized expectations.
- Maintain consistent communication, understanding and compassion.
Challenges are considerable, as the many work-from-home memes will attest, but experts see a silver lining. Now, kids can learn what their parents actually do for a living, see how hard they work at doing it and possibly gain a whole new appreciation for them.
Working from home has also given parents more time with their children and family members, forcing difficult but important conversations that will allow growth and reflection for all.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.