How to Talk to Your Manager About Work After Lockdown as a Working Parent

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:

  • Start by making a list of your pain points and needs. They might include permission or flexibility to work from home, allowing for last-minute schedule changes due to school or daycare closures, or blocking off time during the day when you need to be offline.
  • Spend some time prioritizing these needs and come up with possible solutions.
  • Once you have your list prioritized, identify 1-3 must-haves or non-negotiables.
  • Think of the rest of your list as the nice-to-haves and aim to get a few of them addressed.
  • Depending on your relationship with your manager and their style, you may want to send the info ahead of time to give them a chance to review before discussing.

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

  • Cleo members can always reach out to their Family Guide for support surrounding the transition back to work. Guides can help you talk through how to re-establish (or create) family routines that incorporate new schedules that will impact your day-to-day. This can be helpful as a way for parents to identify and prioritize their needs before speaking with a manager about the transition.
  • Guides are also here to help families talk through their emotions surrounding the transition back to work and can provide support in challenging situations as family members adjust to shifting schedules and the new home environment.
  • Cleo members also have access to career coaches and other experts with workplace negotiation expertise. Your Guide can always help you to reach out or schedule a call with the right person to make sure you are getting the best possible support. Ask your Guide for more information.