It's a problem facing millions of parents these days. They're working from home under social distancing orders, but their children, who would normally be in school or day care, are home as well. Getting their jobs done with bored and restless children underfoot is next to impossible. What can you do to help employees in this situation?
In a recent GeekWire online event, three high-profile Seattle-area tech founders and CEOs shared their best advice for supporting employees who are working from home and caring for their kids at the same time. Here's their advice.
1. Rethink your meetings.
Elena Donio, CEO of the on-demand legal services provider Axiom and a limited partner at the VC firm Operator Collective, says that the current pandemic is forcing conversations that employers have long needed to have about employees' home lives. "We're making real changes in our work style and work dynamics," she explains. "I'm asking teams and managers, 'Do you need to flip your schedule around and move team meetings to very early or very late in the day, to give people a bunch of time to deal with child care or home schooling?'"
Besides changing when meetings happen, employees' kids should also be welcome, says Samir Bodas, co-founder and CEO of Icertis, a cloud-based contract-management platform. "We have lots of kids attending meetings and listening in. We had a meeting where a man had his 3-year-old daughter in his lap, and halfway through the meeting she fell asleep. It was a very touching moment."
2. Double down on your employee parents.
"There's no school, there's no camp, and you don't want grandma and grandpa to be with the kids for obvious reasons," says Rich Barton, co-founder and CEO of Zillow, who was also co-founder of Glassdoor and founder of Expedia. "It's an awful problem."
Given these circumstances, Barton says Zillow is doing everything it can to help its employees who are working at home with kids. "We're providing backup child care as it begins to come back online," he says. And, he added, the company is being very flexible about work times, work arrangements, and even lost productivity. "That's not sustainable in perpetuity, obviously," he says. "But in this weird, weird time, when there are still a lot of question marks ... we have invested a lot in these employees who are parents. This is not the time to disinvest in them--it is the time to continue our investment."
3. Ask how you can help.
"The assumptions we made about which benefits were valuable and needed probably won't hold anymore," Bodas says. "We're crowdsourcing a lot of ideas and saying, 'Tell us what you need.'" This is especially important for Icertis, which has an international workforce, he explains. "There is no way for me to sit here in Bellevue and understand what that employee in Germany or India needs. So we are crowdsourcing and we will restructure our benefits around child care and work from home so we align more with this new way of working and this new world."