For students across the country, school is either already in session or their first day is just around the corner. It’s been a long, arduous journey up until this point for everyone, and your employees with children may be feeling mixed emotions about sending their child off to school this year. But if one thing is for sure, we must come together to support our employees as they navigate these uncharted territories with their children and educators.  Although there is uncertainty over how the school year will proceed due to the fluidity of the pandemic and policy-makers, we must not allow these factors overshadow our ability to support our children in pursuit of their academic success.

While we can’t predict the future, we can do our best to shape how we want it to go. For this reason, I’ve outlined a few ways you can support your employees as their children return to school.

Express your gratitude

While we all have a role to play in our workplaces, employees with children may be feeling especially overwhelmed at this time as their children return to school.  In order to maintain a positive working atmosphere, I recommend expressing gratitude to your employees for showing up to work and performing their duties despite the problems that surround us.  Studies have found that there is an association between gratitude and an individual’s wellbeing, leading to improved health, stronger relationships, and more positive emotions.  As employers, we must be understanding that our employees with children may be experiencing a lot of anxiety as well as added responsibility.  They may be more preoccupied as they take on a more active role in their child’s education and supporting their needs.  Try to focus on working with them to accommodate their unique needs this year.

Practice patience

As a result of COVID-19, the world as we know it has changed.  While we continue to adjust to our newfound way of life, I encourage you and your employees to practice patience in all situations, including at work and at home.  By practicing patience, studies have shown that we can benefit from having better mental health, achieving our goals, and having overall good health.  For many employees with school-aged children, their patience may be wearing thin as they juggle their responsibilities.   Encourage them to take “healthy” breaks before reacting and to practice mindfulness throughout the day.

Manage expectations

As employers, we clearly define the expectations we have of our employees when they join our company.  But before we hold our employees accountable for their actions based on previously agreed expectations, I recommend adjusting your expectations to our new reality.  Employees with school-aged children may require some time to adjust to their new schedule and atmosphere, especially if their child is involved with online learning and your employee is working from home.  Communication, on behalf of both parties, will be of utmost importance.  Make sure they are feeling heard through online or in person meetings, check-ins, and team meetings.

Although the last few months have been stressful for everyone, as employers, we can do our part to ensure our employees with school-aged children feel supported at this time.  If your employees are experiencing challenges with balancing their work and supporting their child’s education, I encourage you to refer them to your  Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for supportive counselling.