Tips for Supporting Parents Working at Home During School Closures

by Laura Woods, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CPP, Information Services Manager

Health and Safety,  Hot Topics

Schools all over the country are closing their doors for at least two weeks. At the same time, employers are encouraging or mandating that employees stay home to enable social distancing and flatten the curve of the virus in the community. Here are some tips on helping employees navigate work while having kids at home.


Employers and employees must keep open communication during this time. Employees should feel safe telling their employers what their challenges are. Employees who feel they have to hide that they have children at home will suffer increased stress, which will likely lead to reduced productivity, reduced sleep, and poor health. Both sides need to acknowledge that this will be difficult to navigate and have honest conversations about solutions.

Long Distance Etiquette

In the coming weeks, there will be a massive increase in video-conferencing for meetings, training, onboarding, and you name it. Be sure that all employees have access to reliable and user-friendly platforms. Be sure to train your employees on how to best use it, how to mute and unmute themselves, chat for questions, and change presenters.

Also, not all employees will be able to isolate themselves in a home office and employers should assume that some calls will be interrupted. Some ways to manage that are to agree on whether employees should use the camera during work calls, using the chat function only to reduce background noise, and to agree to keep calls to a proscribed time, 15 to 20 minutes at a maximum.

Manage Expectations

Please remember that this is an emergency situation and should be treated as such. Employees will not be able to work with the same level of performance and engagement as they normally do. Leaders should look at what is a priority right now to keep the business running, meet client and customer needs, and meet employee needs. Long term projects that are not urgent might need extensions as the focus should be on the emergent issues.

Additionally, allow for some flexibility regarding breaks and work hours. To be sure that everyone, kids and employees alike, gets a break, gets outside, and gets to move around, employers should allow for breaks in the day. It might be easier for parents to work early hours before everyone is awake, during naps, or after bedtime. They can use that time to balance getting outside to run around in the yard, take a long walk, prepare food, and engage in play to break up the inevitable screen time.

Communication and flexibility will be the keys to success during changing and uncertain times.

About the author
Laura Woods, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CPP, Information Services Manager

Laura started at Employers Council as a consultant in the Human Resource Services Department in 2007, and moved into the Information Services Manager role in 2019. Laura’s background includes creating and managing corporate training, recruiting, and human resources departments. She has also managed payroll departments for multi-state companies. Her HR, training, recruiting, and payroll experience includes banking, retail, sales, distribution, and service organizations in Colorado, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, among others. Laura is a member of SHRM and the American Payroll Association.