5 tips for working parents: how to stay sane in crisis

In view of the recent lockdown, many people are struggling to balance jobs, homeschooling and childcare. Parents find themselves stepping into the role of teacher, cook and caretaker, all while continuing to do their regular jobs and trying to stay sane and calm during a period of extraordinary stress. Our parent-colleagues share 5 best practices on finding good solutions during this very demanding period. Here are our top 5  tips for employees (+ 1 bonus tip for employers).

Our whole world is in lockdown

Cloudflight has offices in Austria, Germany, Romania and the Netherlands. Currently, we already have a 3rd lockdown in Austria, where pupils are not able to attend classes in person, although some provisions have been made for kids who need care. Kindergartens are also closed. In Germany, they are talking about an upcoming “mega lockdown”; in Hessen, for example, daycare centers are currently open if you absolutely need childcare. The Dutch government has extended the country’s lockdown to the end of the first week of February. In Romania, education has taken place exclusively online since November 9, 2020, although stores and restaurants are still open – masks and social distancing are obligatory.

little child at the window with rainbow

Kids and work

For most working parents, the main challenges are probably how to handle kids and work simultaneously. If you are not lucky enough to have someone – a fit grandparent or an official housekeeper – living in the same household and/or you lack a separate room for your home office, sometimes you literally might feel trapped.

The first COVID frustrations

“When the pandemic started, our daughter had to stay home and we switched to home office. Two full-time working parents and a child who is used to the kindergarten routine was not easy at first. But we dealt with the situation quite well, even better than I thought we would, especially our daughter”, Boguslawa, a Requirements Engineer from the Vienna office, told us.

“In the beginning, I felt anxious about the future”, stated Maria, the Location Lead in Linz. “There was little knowledge of how the corona situation would be in Austria. After a few weeks, I had the feeling of not being able to fulfill all my roles in one day (mother, teacher, requirements engineer, team lead, cook, housekeeping). I also felt the frustration coming from my kids. They were locked out of their social lives. No interaction with teachers, no sport training, no music lessons and only some video calls with their friends. One of my girls really had a hard time coping with this changing day-to-day routine.”

owrking mom with child

While the current period is very overwhelming, even if we are physically healthy, we are still convinced that we can find some balance in our everyday routine – here are the best 5 tips from our colleagues on how to stay sane in the current covid crisis:

1. Rearrange your working time schedule

Boguslawa told us that she tried to reschedule her daily meetings and tasks. “When corona started, I was trying to start working as early as possible to also finish relatively early and to be able to spend time with my child in the afternoon. The hardest times were after lunch when she was already bored and demanded attention. In May, when kindergartens reopened, she went back and it was a huge relief for all of us (she really missed her friends and kindergarten routine)”.

2. Split up childcare-time with your partner

If you are not a single parent and have small kids who demand your continuous care and attention, maybe you can split up the childcare-time with your partner. According to Florian, a Consultant colleague in Kassel, “balance is very possible for me, as I can work relatively flexibly, sometimes working very early in the morning or late in the evening on tasks that don’t require direct interaction with customers and colleagues. That helps a lot in taking care of the children throughout the day.” Ermir, our Software Developer colleague in Cluj, remarked that the biggest challenge for him at the moment is to take care of his 5-year-old boy while still needing to deliver tasks on time. “I take turns with my wife but sometimes I have to spend more time with him, which is great on the one hand, and of course very demanding when it comes to working hours on the other.”

3. Accept help from the community

At the beginning, Maria’s biggest obstacle was to fit approximately 4 hours of homeschooling into her working day. “My twins are 7 years old. They cannot do their schoolwork at home alone. I need to be next to them and keep them on track. Needless to say, you cannot do schooltime in the evening after your normal working hours, so we started in the morning. That’s why I needed to move all my work appointments to the afternoon. After a while, this was done easily, because my team reacted very supportively. We moved our daily meetings to the afternoon and adjusted all other meetings to fit into the new situation.” 

4. Offer kids an insight into your daily work routine

“Since my kids normally visit childcare after school”, Maria declared, “the next challenge was to cover this time as well. I started my normal work in the afternoon and allowed my kids to come into my home office at any time. So they sometimes joined my Zoom calls and asked what I am doing. In the beginning, I was annoyed because I was interrupted in my work. But then this feeling changed now my kids understand what I do when I’m working. Before it was not tangible for them because they never ‘saw’ me working.” 

Boguslawa also confirmed: “No one was ever bothered if my child was sitting with me during a meeting or if I had to mute for a moment to answer her question. I tried to keep her away from meetings with customers but even there, there was a full understanding of and friendly attitude towards a child waving to the camera during a meeting.” 

5. Send the kids to childcare

As mentioned, schools and kindergartens are closed and distance learning is provided. Although the schools remain open to families who need care, a couple of our colleagues report that they are actively encouraged to provide care for themselves when possible. Some schools even openly discourage parents from bringing their kids. Luckily, we know colleagues who have positive experiences regarding this possibility. Our Aerospace Co-Lead Werner emphasized, for example, that his children’s school (a primary school in Wels, Upper-Austria) handles this situation well and kids get meaningful things to do. Regardless, having the COVID-compensation initiative at Cloudflight was and remains a great thing!”

dad homeschooling his child

What is this COVID compensation? What can your company do for working parents who need more support than usual? Here is our + 1 tip from the employer’s perspective.

Cloudflight’s parent compensation

Cloudflight asked everyone to work remotely starting the 13th of March 2020. By that day, our internal IT had taken every necessary step to provide a stable communication tool. We as a company have been set up very well for remote working anyways – internal chat tools, paperless working, VPN access, and working from anywhere was already possible before corona. The management provided regular corona updates during our Monday General Meeting calls to give everyone the same information and keep the information flow. Our People Operation team tried to get in touch with as many employees as possible on a regular basis.

“Double burden causes lots of stress and frustration”, stated Elisabeth, our Head of People Operations based in Munich. “Parents are exhausted because they are not just parents anymore – they also have to be teachers. Sometimes, they might be very unfocused, so it can occur that one or another wants to reduce their working time or take unpaid vacation. We as a company wanted to provide complete flexibility with regards to our parent-colleagues’ working time. We offered them the option to spend their working time in a way that combines homeschooling or child care with the job and gave them 100% trust and flexibility when it came to the distribution of their weekly working time. Besides that, from April on they received 12.5% of their weekly working time to spend for child care: this meant additional paid time off for them.”

For Ermir, this initiative means a lot: “our company has always handled parent-employees a bit differently (in a positive sense), which is appreciated from my side.”

Maria added that there is also a Cloudflight chat group “where parents write about their experiences and reach out to fellow parents in the company. The COVID-compensation time was a great help”, she confirmed. “I needed it to have some more flexibility. For example when homeschooling didn’t work out like planned and we needed more time to cover the learning material.”

According to Boguslawa, the fact that the company provided 12.5% less working time, and the option to get some hardware from the office, was helpful to work effectively. This amazing offer was a lifesaver – gave me more time for my family in this challenging period. Not all my friends were so lucky.

* Photo credit of the header pic: (c) Petra A. Otto

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