Families in Remote and Hybrid Workplaces

5 min. read

Rethinking how our loved ones fit into the workplace

When we work from home (part of the time or all of the time), one of our biggest challenges is fitting work into life. When we work, we still have our priorities, interests, and needs. We have a home to care for, a body to keep healthy, and for most of us, we have loved ones who share our lives with us. These loved ones not only need support--they provide support. They are at the foundation of employees' happiness at work. They are one of our key sources of drive, care, and personal purpose.

In this era when the lines between work and home are blurring, it is perhaps more important than ever for workplaces to step up support for families and the other people who share lives with employees. American workplaces historically have been not very good about recognizing and nurturing families like they do employees themselves. Benefits like paid parental leave have been steadily rising for many years. While others--such as childcare benefits, adoption benefits, or fertility services coverage are still uncommon but slowly growing.

This slow move to adapt our work lives to our family lives creates serious challenges. Many employees are stressed or even overwhelmed by the juggling the two with limited help from their employers. Mothers and caregivers are particularly hard-hit. Childcare costs have skyrocketed and some communities do not have enough childcare services available to meet demand, leading to something experts are calling the "childcare crisis."

A recent BBC article profiled the lives of some mothers working from home, detailing the pressure and personal sacrifices that caregivers experience. Mona Zanhour, a management expert quoted in the article, says, “it’s a double-edged sword. Technology is allowing us to work and parent and live our lives all at the same time in the same space. But it becomes its own monster when we add the childcare crisis.”

Many benefits for family life are expensive and rather involved for employers to provide. On-site childcare, adoption benefits, and comprehensive dependent care packages are wonderful, but not all workplaces are in the right position to provide them. Let's look at some accessible, achievable things that most workplaces can consider to help with work and families:

  • Open the lines of communication, and aim to help. Regularly check in with employees and keep aware of challenges that employees are having with balancing family and work. Leaders and managers can help when they notice employees are having repeated conflicts or interruptions. In this situation, they can explore the situation with the employee, and offer support or accommodation to solve the problem. For example a manager might say, "it seems like 8am is a really tough time for you to run calls because of the preschool drop-off. Let's block that out for you so you don't run calls at that time."
  • Make it normal to have kids, or not. Normalize children at work by having leaders openly acknowledge that sometimes kids are going to be around and that's okay. People who work from home feel stressed if they think their kids could endanger their jobs by giggling in the background of a phone call. Leaders can help by giving employees guidelines on how to handle that, such as how to give call participants a heads-up that they may hear children in the background. Also keep in mind that not all employees have kids, so when providing guidance, acknowledge the folks that live alone or only with partners or pets.
  • Contribute toward childcare, or self-care. Employer contributions to flexible spending accounts are helpful to families because they can put the money toward childcare (or care services for any dependent). The same money can be used instead by individuals for health and wellness, including deductibles, copays, prescriptions, or even chiropractors. Also consider funding "emergency childcare," a benefit that can provide or pay for a few instances of childcare per year when employees' usual childcare falls through for any reason.
  • Acknowledge employees' families and loved ones. Take the time for leaders to periodically acknowledge that the workplace is grateful for the support and care that families and loved ones are contributing. Admit that you can't have a great workplace without them. This is particularly nice at holiday time or around particularly busy parts of the year for your company. Consider a nice card or a seasonal gift with a thoughtful message directly to the families.
  • Provide flexible scheduling. Flexible scheduling allows employees to choose and/or vary their work's start and end times. While many workplaces have previously considered allowing flexible scheduling and rejected the idea, new developments in software and human resources practices have made it more accessible than ever. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has a great toolkit for looking at flexible work arrangements.

Knowing your workplace and its families is the first step to the best workplace ever. Amazing Workplace can get you started on this path with our Employee Happiness Survey. Our survey provides important, accurate, actionable measurements of work-life balance, support from leadership, and analysis of benefits.