BHR Interview: Tips For Working From Home With Kids
Regardless of whether you have kids of your own, being a leader in HR with a remote workforce means you’ll likely need to support employees who are juggling professional responsibilities with the task of looking after children. Luckily, providing that support doesn’t require being a parent yourself. It just means showing empathy, being flexible, and offering the right kind of help and guidance.
This blog will give you some insightful tips on how you can effectively help employees with caregiving responsibilities who also work remotely. To gather these tips, we interviewed an expert: Samantha Durfey, customer marketer at BambooHR and mother of two. Samantha has been working from home for over four years and she shares strategies for winning as an employee and parent.
Understanding the Benefits and Showing Real Empathy
By now, it’s well understood that remote work benefits employees—and their employers. Same goes for those with kids at home. Flexible work practices like remote and hybrid work models are proven to be positively associated with work-life balance, especially for women looking to maintain a career after having kids.
In fact, in a recent FlexJobs survey, 88 percent of respondents believe that having a flexible job would help them spend more time with family. And 94 percent of respondents who indicated they had or are going to have kids one day think that a flexible job will help them be a better parent. So the first thing to keep in mind when supporting caretakers working at home is that it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement for them and the company.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but research shows it’s worth it. Our expert, BambooHR employee and mom Samantha, agrees. “Being at a company that understands I’m a working parent and sees the value I bring is a huge plus. The pressure just isn’t there if I have to get my work done around my schedule, and it makes me feel truly valued,” she says.
While we all juggle competing demands for our attention, it can be harder for parents and caregivers who work from home to compartmentalize those demands when they quite literally scream for attention. Moments of chaos, though, don’t mean your employees aren’t dedicated, productive, and focused.
“When we hired our new head of marketing, Amy Frampton, my first meeting with her was beyond chaotic,” Samantha recalls. “During my presentation, I had a landscaper ring my doorbell, which made the dog bark like crazy. Then, my child was literally throwing fruit snacks at my laptop. Not the best first impression. But when Amy saw that I could handle it all, she paid me a sincere compliment and gave me the confidence that I needed to feel reassured in my role.”
As you can see, beginning with empathy creates a win-win dynamic.
It Takes a Village: Provide Support and Encouragement
Samantha has learned the power of community when it comes to managing her time and her kids’ expectations. “I have two kids at home who are four-and-a-half and one years old. That means even when I’m not working, mom time is limited,” she explains.
But Samantha has learned to enlist the help of her community. “Look for anything that is affordable and takes up as much time as possible,” she recommends.
Some of the activities she’s leveraged include:
- Day or afternoon-long summer camps
- Swim lessons
- Joining a neighborhood kid swap with other working parents
- Using family for babysitting, if available
- Making things around the house kid-friendly to accommodate free playtime
- Paid daycare and preschool programs
- Arts and crafts kits or other subscription-based activity packages
HR leaders can lend a hand in facilitating this support by doing the following:
- Research and maintain a list of low-cost childcare options and child-friendly activities in the employee’s area.
- Create a community group or forum where parents in your company can share resources and advice.
- Expand your family-friendly benefits to include things like dependent care FSAs, flexible PTO, inclusive family leave, and childcare subsidies.
Support Flexible Schedules
One of the biggest benefits of working from home is greater flexibility in working hours, which is especially important for parents and caretakers’ mental health and work performance. Here’s what Samantha suggests: “Move your schedule around so it fits your life. Sometimes I work late at night or early in the morning, when my kids are asleep. Then during the day I fit work in between the cracks.”
She also recommends scheduling meetings at times when you know you’re going to be available—nap time or lunch, for example. But her real pro-tip is doing meetings on the go: “A trip to the store or across town is an opportunity for a meeting if you know you don’t need to be very active on the call. We’ve all heard of walking meetings, I take it a step further and walk my kids to the park. A half hour call is the perfect amount of time, and with wireless headphones I can even push my baby on the swing while listening in. Thank god for AirPods.”
For HR pros, think about how your leadership team can adjust its expectations with response times. The idea of “working hours” could be reconsidered to accommodate employees with childcare responsibilities. For example, defining what “end of day” really means can help parents and caretakers fulfill their duties and plan ahead. As with many things in human resources, communication is key.
Samantha shares a final thought on flexibility: “As a leader, be proactive! Ask people what they need and how you can help. Don’t wait till things come up last minute—that’s how deadlines get missed or miscommunications happen. When employees with children at home clearly know what’s expected of them, they can organize their day around delivering. It helps us feel like we’re not a burden, we feel supported, and do better work.”
Final Tips for Supporting and Retaining Employees with Children
As a final list of takeaways, Samantha shared a few quick tips to better support employees with kids at home and recruit candidates who are parents:
- Summer hours: Consider adopting a more progressive schedule (like a four-day workweek, for example) for the entire organization during the summer vacation months.
- Company-sponsored events: Play dates with coworkers, kid-friendly hangouts, or a BBQ—the event itself doesn’t matter much, but the gesture will.
- Transparent, proactive communication: Encourage everyone on the team to share their calendars, so everyone is on the same page about availability. This also helps parents and caretakers communicate their less-than-traditional schedules and block off set times on their work calendars for caregiving duties.
- Mobile-friendly tech: Some of your employees may not know that Slack has an app, for example. “If I can answer a few messages while I watch my son karate chop wooden planks,” Samantha quips, “we’re both crushing it.”
Many parents and caretakers view raising children as a job. It may not have the same performance metrics or pay as well, but the benefits are unbeatable. Helping these employees feel like they can be successful at both of their jobs will go a long way in improving your retention and performance numbers, as well as contribute to having happier, healthier teammates.