Lockdown is hard for everyone, no matter your circumstances.  But lockdown can offer a chance for employers to show that they are human, that they care about their employees.  To offer long overdue flexibility.  Sadly, too often they don’t. 

Too many employers assume that home schooling is plonking your kids in front of a computer and leaving them to get on with it, whilst you do your work. 

It’s not that easy. 

And it needs to be recognised that kids actually require supervision and often undivided attention.  I mean who knew!

I have two kids in primary school.  They go to a great school which is supporting us as much as they can in these circumstances.  But my six-year-old requires me to sit and help him do his work.  Learning to read and write cannot all be done online.  I am required to log into various zoom lessons for both.  I cannot tell you how many devices we have on the go! 

My eleven-year-old has a full days’ timetable and requires additional support with his maths, which right now falls to me.  Something my senior school math teacher, Mr Thorne, would probably be mildly concerned about! As much as I would like to leave my eldest son to get on with his work, when left to his own devices he tends to stare out of the window and daydream or doodle stick men.  He needs nudging and encouraging, and general supervising! 

Sometimes they both need my help at the same time, and someone doesn’t get it.  Often, I place them in separate rooms to work because, well, siblings; they fight!  So, I spend my time darting between the two and throwing some laundry in the machine as I pass.  Then there’s the time I spend printing all the work and scanning and uploading things to send back to their teachers.

My days are spent making sure the kids are doing their work and helping them.  At the end of the day, I start my job. 

I’m one of the lucky ones. 

My job does enable me to work flexibly.  Although I can’t say that come 5pm I have the required energy to start my working day. 

I’m also not trying to take care of a baby or a toddler at the same time as helping my kids with school work, and doing the job I would normally do whilst they are at school being taught by the people with infinite more skills and patience than me. I am in awe of the people out there juggling all this with the addition of nappy changes and toddler tantrums. I can only imagine the chaos of your home right now!

Then there is the assumption, that it doesn’t matter.  They don’t have to do schoolwork. 

But it does matter. 

Most parents right now are doing their best, knowing that their best isn’t anywhere near the standard of education that the kids should be receiving.  They have already missed so much, and the thought of what they are missing now weighs heavy on our minds. Education matters so much. From ABC’s to the socialising they are missing, and yes even bloody fronted adverbials. It all matters.

Like most people I want to give my best to both my kids and my work, but quite simply, right now there are not enough hours in the day for that.

I get the need for lockdown.  I really do. People are losing their lives, becoming seriously ill, suffering long term effects. Then there are the people that are losing their jobs. We absolutely need to get the virus under control.

But my problem is we live in a culture where having a job and being a parent are often treated as though they are mutually exclusive.  When actually most employees do both.  Normally we juggle with childcare and school holidays. We make it work, despite there not being enough flexibility from our employers. 

Things right now are not normal. 

They are as far from normal as you can possibly get, and we really need flexibility.  

I know that parents can ask to be furloughed for child care reasons. But employers can say no to this request. They can insist employees use their holiday. So what happens in the Summer when the kids have six weeks off and require child care and we used all our holiday to take care of them during lockdown?

There maybe some out there without kids who think we shouldn’t be given special treatment because we chose to have kids. All I can say is I would rather live in a world where everyone’s circumstances are considered, and flexibility is available for everyone. Whether you need it for childcare, caring responsibilities for a relative, or for your own mental wellbeing.

Flexibility has been proven time and time again to improve profitability. 9-5 is a completely archaic construct in todays world.

Yet here we are still fighting for a work life balance.

I don’t have the answers.  I’m not asking for pity.  I just think we need more employers to acknowledge that we are spread thin right now, and our kids require our attention.  Even if that is right in the middle of a zoom presentation. 

So, if your employees are not replying to your email as quickly as you would like, give them a chance.  They are googling what a compounded noun phrase is and dealing with a meltdown over a place value.

What are your thoughts on flexibility?

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Claire Kirby

4 Comments on Give employees the flexibility they need

  1. I think it depends on the type of job you do and I am also very aware that a lot of businesses are struggling to survive too. I am currently working two jobs, both which require me to work set hours whereas my husbands hours change week to week which is tricky

  2. I was unemployed when lockdown hit, and now only work 10 hrs a month, but while I wish I had more work and more income (thankfully my husband still has his full time job), I have no idea now I would have managed home schooling two kids at two very different levels, if I had been working full time.

  3. Flexibility is so vital, yet I also understand that a lot of businesses are really struggling too. It’s such a fine balance and one we are all trying to navigate during a pandemic, which was never going to be easy!

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