As childcare and schools begin to open up again, working parents will have to navigate a new reality that exists somewhere between full lockdown and the old way of life.
This future of work will likely require that employees have an honest conversation with their manager about continued flexibility.
“The pandemic has certainly heightened the need to have compassion, transparency, and regular communications,” explained Lily Kohls, Cleo’s VP of People, who has decades of experience creating supportive company cultures and HR policies. Sharing with your manager possible challenges isn’t a sign of weakness, she said, pointing out that managers may assume everything is fine if they don’t hear otherwise.
Every situation will look different. As many camps and summer programs aren’t likely to happen, some parents will have to watch their children until school begins again. If your child is in daycare, some providers and centers may stagger when each family can start back. In addition, comfort levels around resuming outside childcare or bringing caregivers back into the home will differ.
How to Prepare for a Conversation with Your Manager
If you find that you need to speak with your manager about how to manage evolving expectations and resources, we suggest you prepare first:
Taking the time to prioritize and propose solutions sends the message that you are a team player who has both vision and foresight to address anticipated workplace challenges. This puts you in a much better negotiating position by taking charge of the narrative, and spinning potential negatives into positive solutions that actually benefit your employer. It also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills that you may not have been able to showcase in other contexts.
The goal is to make your requests seem like an opportunity, not a burden. During the conversation, be as clear and concise as possible, as well as be open to creative ideas you may not have thought of. You can also seek out information from your HR leaders about new paid leave or work-from-home policies.
For company leaders, we suggest creating company-wide policies that encourage flexibility, such as designated no meeting days, which allow for employees to plan their schedules and have a focused productive day. Designating core hours during the workday may also allow working parents to coordinate with their managers and teams on what to expect, and this shifting of work time earlier or later allows for taking care of children. Employers also should be prepared for a need to reduce hours for a period of time to adjust back to work after lockdown.
Finally, agreeing on monthly and weekly goals or projects will help both employees and employers. Prioritization with context of key deliverables and deadlines are critically important when resources are limited, and employees should update their manager at key milestones to show progress or or ask for help if there are roadblocks. This is a clear way to show commitment and follow through.
How Cleo Can Help