Back to school: How to support parents during remote learning

We’re not going back to normal, but we’re still going back to school. This academic year will be unlike any other, with many parents working at home while introducing their kindergarteners to Zoom.
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By now, most engineering teams have established healthy WFH practices that enable productive work. What happens when remote learning and homework come into the mix?

If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that life requires flexibility and resilience. We’re asked to manage a wide range of responsibilities and emotions every day. Every person deserves empathy and some extra slack this year. Yet, companies are still held to high standards that require serious focus. Teams are tasked with giving parents space for their dynamic lives, while also meeting deadlines and shipping products. 

It raises the question: how can we balance work productivity with homeschooling? 

Release the idea of the “9-to-5” workday.

Traditional office hours are history. Between remote teams and digital collaboration, the changes to our working styles make specific hours less relevant. Creating a culture of flexibility is even more essential during this unprecedented school year. Follow in the footsteps of numerous companies that have switched to flexible working hours. (Uplevel included!) Some people work best in the mornings, while others prefer to schedule Deep Work after dinner. Take advantage of these differences and delegate time-sensitive tasks accordingly.

More communication, more empathy.

It might feel tempting to establish rules or build a rigid framework around working hours. Instead, encourage overcommunication. If everyone shares their online and offline hours for the day, you’ll be able to work around any obstacles, rather than labeling differences as inconveniences. Take it further by responding with understanding. We’re all doing our best in circumstances beyond our choice.

Embrace work-life balance in real time.

In an ideal world, we’d be able to divide our day between job and family in a way that reduces multitasking. Realistically, interruptions happen. The best we can do is normalize it. Consider extending an open-door policy to Zoom meetings—at Uplevel, we’re no stranger to a baby virtually in attendance—or give employees full permission to pause their video if something comes up. Allowing for this flexibility gives everyone a chance to attend meetings and make responsible decisions about how to balance work needs and family needs.

Actually replace that meeting with an email.

Some aspects of social distancing have us yearning for interaction. On the other hand, there’s a certain frustration in rushing to clean up that science project, just to hop on a Zoom that could’ve been summed up in a few sentences. Rely on digital communication whenever possible. Perhaps your daily standup can be posted onto a new Slack channel—you can even set a time window, like before 10am. That way, everyone can share updates at the time that works for their morning.

Center your next 1:1 around the upcoming school year.

Parents had a preview of remote learning earlier this year, so they might know what they’ll need to get through the day. With a different structure this time around, those needs might have changed. Discuss any requests or concerns at your next 1:1, away from the pressure of a team meeting, and work together to find solutions.

Again, empathy.

For a data-driven company, “empathy” might feel like a soft science, yet it’s worthy of a second mention to conclude this piece. This year has thrown a lot of changes our way. If your team has adapted to the times, that’s something to celebrate! Show everyone that you care about their well-being, on and off the clock. Extending a culture of understanding can only strengthen your team dynamic further.

Every team is functioning a little bit differently this year. Support your newfound flexibility with the data that keeps you on track, like new features for remote teams or personalized 1:1 reports.