Back to school is always a time that brings parents and kids a certain level of stress and, under our countries current state of crisis, the pandemic just adds to that anxiety. It’s a time of, not only navigating through purchasing supplies and uniforms, but also, a time of navigating our child’s safety upon their return to school. Not only purchasing masks, sanitizers and wipes but also trying to enforce they keep them on and stay safe during the school day. And even though we cross our fingers, let them go and wish for the best, we are well aware the risk our children face because they are not always the most diligent in following rules. As a result, those first couple of days of returning to school can be challenging to some of our team members while they are trying to perform at the workplace. Now they not only have to worry about what their child had for lunch or scored on their math test, they also must worry about them keeping their masks on, washing their hands and maintaining social distancing.
Additionally, you might have team members that have additional stress, such as facing new logistical issues with drop off and pick up, adding anxiety to a normal routine. Because, I am sure all of you parents have been there, in the famous loop, waiting for your turn to drop off your child and the person in front of you decides to store the backpacks in the trunk. Now they need to get off and open the trunk for their child to get their backpack, all while you can only think of the early meeting your manager scheduled that you will probably be late for even though you woke up 30 minutes before schedule to give yourself enough time to be ready. Now you are 5 minutes late to work and your manager is looking at you with the late stare face but, you don’t want to blame it on the drop off loop because good business ethics says you shouldn’t let your family life interfere with your business life and now you are stressed, upset and can’t concentrate even though you have been preparing for a week to have this meeting. And although this might seem like a comical situation, this might be the life of many of your team members. For this reason, employers and/or managers should be aware of these events and have sensitivity around the impact of our external environment on our team members, especially when it is surrounded on the children or pets.
Its times like these employers and/or managers can make a positive impact on their team members and build a compassionate, loyal and trustworthy workplace. If you come across a situation like this, ensure you are communicating with your team members about the need to have work life balance and the role you wish to play in that relationship. Take the time to share some of the tools you offer to assist with this stress or anxiety and alternative they have to feel more comfortable.
Some examples you can share are:
- Work from home – if your company offers flexibility to allow employees to work from home you could restate the position of the employer and allow employees to take advantage of the benefit during this initial time of return to school.
- Temporary alternative schedule – if you or your company can be flexible, allow your team members to have a temporary change of schedule – maybe that first week of back to school to assist with the acclimation of traffic and morning or afternoon routine.
- Employee Assistance Program – if your company offers an Employee Assistance Program that provides free counseling, it might be a good opportunity for you to remind team members of that benefit and how they and their children can best utilize the program. Sometime the same EAP programs offer tool kits in this particular area that you can use as a resource.
Throughout this process its important you are empathetic and understanding to the team member while remaining unbiased. It might be something they need for a day or two or something they can benefit from in the short term but, believe me, something as simple as caring can go a long way for your team members and creates a new level of loyalty. Try it and share with me how it goes. You can always message me through the website or our social media platforms. Good luck on back to school!