Working, Parenting and Schooling From Home
It can be challenging working from home while caring for children. And with the pandemic forcing many employees to work remotely, many working parents suddenly found the added responsibility of helping their kids adapt to remote learning. On top of this, parents are also faced with explaining multiple crises to their children, including COVID-19, social unrest, political polarization and natural disasters.
Parents need to find ways to support their children during these tough times while they themselves are feeling overwhelmed. It’s no surprise that rates of anxiety, depression, alcohol use and substance abuse are increasing dramatically, especially among parents.
With so much happening, employees with children may be struggling with both their productivity and mental well-being. But there’s good news, too: There are ways to cope with each of these issues.
Expert guidance is available for parents working, caretaking and schooling at home, as well as for parents looking for help explaining current events to their children. Mental health and substance use conditions are treatable, with recovery being the expected outcome.
Here’s how employers can help.
Employers Can Be Part of the Solution
For most of the past decade, health care agencies have been encouraging employers to join the effort to improve mental well-being. The Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Mental Health and the World Health Organization have recognized the importance of a psychologically healthy workplace on the mental well-being of workers.
Offer and make sure employees are aware of benefits that support mental well-being them. Employee assistance programs provide a wide range of services that support employees and can be extremely cost-effective. Make them easily accessible on the company intranet.
Offer other wellness services. Virtual sessions for meditation, mindfulness, breathwork, yoga, tai chi and exercise, among other things, can help employees take a break, de-stress and get back to work refreshed. Offer free or discounted meditation or mindfulness apps. Share brief flyers with simple yoga poses, ideas for self-care and wellness tips.
Implement an anti-stigma campaign to normalize behavioral health benefits. Off-the-shelf anti-stigma campaigns are available for free online and include step-by-step instructions for implementation. Encourage managers and leaders to utilize benefits and share their experiences (without necessarily sharing the details of the lives). Share statistics about EAP utilization and general statistics about the number of people with mental health and substance abuse conditions in the general population. Publish success stories and individualized scenarios to help workers see how they might benefit from using EAPs or other benefits.
Increase flexibility, especially around schedules. Parents working from home with children (or caring for older adults) may need flexibility, such as adjustable start times or split shifts. Empower managers to be flexible with employees, including allowing them to miss non-essential meetings. Give managers leeway to help employees prioritize their workloads.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. During this time, it’s impossible to overcommunicate.
Employers are in a unique position to help employees support their children during this extraordinary time. If you need more ideas, here are some tip sheets you can share with employees:
The CDC also has age-specific resource kits that cover how to cope with the pandemic.