8 Tips for Working Parents (and the People Who Manage Them) During a Crisis
If you’re a working parent, you know the word of the year is unprecedented. Your daily schedule most likely has you juggling work, parenting, and homeschooling, maybe for the first time. And, if you’re a woman, you may have gone through a career change as well. The pandemic has impacted women’s careers with them leaving the workforce at four times the rate as men. It seems the bulk of parenting and running a household, while also working a job, continues to fall on women. Furthermore, one in four women are considering either leaving the workforce or reducing their work hours. It’s apparent we need to support our working parents now more than ever.
As we continue Leading Through Change, our commitment to sharing lessons learned with our greater Salesforce community remains. And what we’ve seen is that an additional work-related challenge faces people managers. It might even be the first time they attempt to manage their remote team via screens and emails. To adjust to the new circumstances, managers should try to focus on outcomes and goals, instead of when employees are online and in meetings. It’s necessary to focus on the work being done and not waste energy keeping track of how (and when) people do that work.
If you’re a manager, don’t underestimate how hard it can be for people to admit they may not be fully available, especially when the U.S. unemployment rate is at 6.7%. Emphasize transparency and communication — it’s better to know someone can be counted on 50% of the time than to wonder whether they will be available for 10% or 90% of the workday.
Here are some personal anecdotes from Trailblazers (members of the Salesforce community) on how they’re navigating work/life balance now.
Tessa Clark, Salesforce administrator, NRC Health
As a mom of two beautiful school-aged girls, the challenges of COVID-19 has given me an opportunity to show our girls the meaning of balance. I want our girls to know that I’m driven and that hard work helps you to achieve your dreams, but I also want them to know that they are #1. When your home has become your office, it’s easy to turn family time into work time.
“Control your day. Be ruthless with your time. If you block time for calls, then make the calls. If you block time for prospecting, prospect.”
In order to find balance, I’ve had to adjust my mindset. Work may not always be from 8-to-5 and it might just be cool to be a carpool mom. Working for an amazing company like NRC Health allows me to stop work to pick up my children in the middle of the day and truly focus on them; (this) helps me achieve balance. The 30 minutes we spend in the car together is all about them and their day. Taking these moments to put work on the back burner and really listen to what they’re saying helps us to stay connected.
I think, ultimately, we need to realize that work during COVID doesn’t mean sitting in front of your computer eight hours a day any longer. It means buckling down, really focusing, and getting as much done as you can during the hours you have to do it. It means shutting off the work part of your brain when it’s time to transition to family time. It means really focusing on your children and their needs because this is a stressful time for them also. I also think it means giving yourself grace. Balance isn’t the same for everyone and we all just have to know that we are doing our best during a difficult time.
Tony Prophet, chief equality and recruiting officer, Salesforce
Now more than ever, it’s important to practice inclusive leadership and empathy. Start your meetings with a focus on the health and safety of your colleagues and their family. Simply asking, ‘How are you doing today?’ can go a long way. When scheduling calls, be extra mindful about the time windows such as mornings and lunch hours, which can be particularly busy times for working parents.
“Seek to understand how each team member may be personally impacted and how you can better support them.”
As a leader, do your best to make those with childcare responsibilities feel heard and validated. If you’re comfortable, talk about your own challenges and even invite your kids to stop by and say hi to underscore the point. For me, it’s been a journey of discovery as we’re now homeschooling my nine-year-old who often is a guest on my calls.
And lastly, don’t make presumptions on childcare workloads based on gender identity. For example, many kids have two dads or two moms, or some may be single parents — this issue transcends gender identity. Seek to understand how each team member may be personally impacted and how you can better support them.
Erica Bell, enterprise architect, senior consultant, Dell Digital
This has been a challenging time with everyone at home and schedules disrupted. The key for me has been to get outside of my house. I pencil in workout times, this means I leave my house to run or go to a park to do a workout. I used to get up crazy early and work out with a group, however, that isn’t feasible right now. I have found I missed this the most, as it allowed me to get outside and be with my workout buddies. For my family, dinner time is now mandatory. Everyone is required to come to the table and engage, without electronics.
“… it is important to be flexible, normal office hours are a thing of the past. I need to support and trust employees to complete responsibilities when they can.”
I’ve found, you have to lead by example. If [as a manager] you talk the talk but don’t walk the walk: what type of example are you instilling? I have open conversations [with my colleagues] about how I am coping with the new normal and how my kids are coping. I am honest about my struggles, the things I am doing to support my colleagues, and what I am doing for my family. It’s important to convey you understand everyone has a different story. That you know everyone copes and manages differently, and that is OK.
Everyone is remote and probably will be for a while into 2021. So, it is important to be flexible, normal office hours are a thing of the past. I need to support and trust employees to complete responsibilities when they can. I know I personally get interrupted multiple times a day to support my children’s classwork and know others face the same challenges.
Jody Kohner, executive vice president, global engagement, Salesforce
I think the most important thing we can do for our kids right now is model a positive attitude. Remind them that we will get through this, together. It won’t last forever. And, we’ll be stronger as a family unit because of it. It’s not easy, and every day is definitely not a good day. But I also find silver linings in being able to step away from my work and hug them through their tears, fears, and frustrations. I am mindful that these are precious moments, and if they were all grown up, I wouldn’t be able to kiss away their tears so easily.
“I am also lucky to have a boss and colleagues who trust me to focus on what is most important in each moment …”
I am also lucky to have a boss and colleagues who trust me to focus on what is most important in each moment, and understand that I, like every other working parent, am doing the very best I can. I try to bring this same level of grace and understanding to my colleagues, family, and friends.
Bret Taylor, president and chief operating officer, Salesforce
These difficult times really shine a light on the importance and value in the moments with our family. For example, I’ve been able to share my passion for music with my kids.
We’ve pulled out my old college guitars and have been rocking out together every night. I love it.
“Give your employees the space and permission to not only manage having their kids at home but also really enjoy the moments they have together.”
As leaders, it’s important that we recognize that things aren’t business as usual. Give your employees space and permission to not only manage having their kids at home but also really enjoy the moments they have together. Be flexible about working hours, listen and be empathetic to their needs, and support them in finding the right balance between work and home.
Cheryl Sanclemente, senior director of corporate communications, Salesforce
Working from home with kids is hard. In my case, I have a “threenager,” a yappy dog, and a husband (who is also working remotely).
Send help! I have a newfound appreciation for all the stay-at-home parents and caretakers out there.
“It is more important than ever that we lead with compassion — for others and ourselves — as we adjust to this ‘new normal.’”
During this difficult time, it is near impossible to juggle everything — I personally feel like I’m not measuring up as a colleague or as a parent. So it is more important than ever that we lead with compassion — for others and ourselves — as we adjust to this ‘new normal.’ I have made sure to tell my team to prioritize their well-being and the well-being of their families. That means no nonessential meetings, flexibility, and cross-team collaboration. It has been a true honor watching the team come together to support one another during this time.
Sarah Franklin, executive vice president and general manager of Platform, Trailhead, and Developers, Salesforce
I would say that it’s important for companies to be flexible and give parents permission to make a schedule that works for them, and to respect the schedule.
“It’s super important to over communicate within teams on deliverables and expectations.”
It’s super important to over communicate within teams on deliverables and expectations. More is better than less during this time. Do your best to stay on time and be respectful of others’ schedules as they also navigate multiple priorities.
Lead with empathy and grace during this time. We’re all flexing new muscles here. On a personal note, I have also changed my schedule to not take meetings between 1–5 p.m. to split childcare and help my children with distance learning.
Leah McGowen-Hare, vice president of Trailhead Evangelism, Salesforce
It is tough being a working parent, it is hard being a teacher, and it is a challenge being a homeschool parent. But, being all three at the same time is nearly impossible. I have boy and girl twins in middle school and a sophomore college student at home. Having the kids on a schedule is super helpful. I still have them make their lunches the night before, so they do not expect me to make lunch as I most likely will be in a meeting.
“We’re reimagining what it’s like to work during this time and how we can all stay connected.”
As for my team, I remind us to be kinder and more patient with each other. We’re reimagining what it’s like to work during this time and how we can all stay connected. We have to remember that we are living in a new time and to stay grounded in gratitude. I created a daily gratitude Quip document where my team can share what they are grateful for. This has been an excellent way to get to know them all better, understand what they are experiencing, and to build a sense of hope as well as humility during these uncertain times.
Colin Fleming, senior vice president of Brand, Content, and Customer Insights, Salesforce
This unprecedented situation affects each team member in unique ways, and there is no perfect policy you can write that serves all. It all starts with permission to prioritize personal and family wellbeing, and being sure that you are visibly setting that example yourself.
“Ensure you have protected time with your family and trust your team to find the right balance.”
Ensure you have protected time with your family and trust your team to find the right balance. Take this time to lead with compassion and understanding. No two schedules are alike, and by glimpsing into how each of my team members approach this situation — we feel even closer and united as a team like never before. Seek out the positives during this time of uncertainty and be a beacon of light.
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