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Career Advice

Tips for Working Parents on Navigating the Coronavirus

Posted by Eileen Hoenigman Meyer

Career Advice Expert

Last Updated April 3, 2020

Being a working parent requires maximum attention on multiple fronts. That alone is a logistical and emotional challenge; it becomes more complex when there’s an interplay on those fronts, as is routinely the case. 

Like many working parents, you’re probably trying to get your mind around how it might impact your routine if you and your children need to hunker down and wait out the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Internationally, 300 million children are currently out of school due to the threat of the virus. US school closures are mounting, as are the number of states declaring a state of emergency.  

Government employees and members of Congress are preparing to work remotely. Likewise, companies including Glassdoor, Twitter, Apple, Facebook and Google have asked staff to work from home. While this is helpful, it can also complicate work for parents, especially when their children’s school or daycare is closed. 

This puts you in a situation where those worlds that you try to keep separate are scrambled into a routine-free mash; from there, you’re responsible for producing deliverables. It can feel overwhelming to think this through and forge a plan. Here’s how to get your bearings. 

Speak Your Truth; Get Your Answers  

Request it if your company’s management team has not yet convened a meeting to discuss sick time, and the pay associated with it, as employees take extra precautions during the Coronavirus outbreak. Employees need an opportunity to review policies with management and HR colleagues and to ask questions. This way, you know exactly what to do in the event of illness or closures. Making plans and plotting out your families’ logistics will help you keep your anxiety in check.  

The CDC advises: “Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.” The CDCs recommendations are not laws. Each workplace has its own policies, but referencing the government recommendations can be a helpful talking point in your conversation with management.  Likewise, share any alerts that you’ve received from your child’s school or care provider so that you can point to the restrictions that may impede your availability. 

The CDC advises: “To prepare for possible community transmission of COVID-19, the most important thing for schools to do now is plan and prepare. As the global outbreak evolves, schools should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks. Schools want to be ready if COVID-19 does appear in their communities... Ensure the plan emphasizes common-sense preventive actions for students and staff. For example, emphasize actions such as staying home when sick…”

Schools are in the prep and planning stages, and so are you. You need your employer’s partnership in outlining what resources you can count on if you or your family members get sick or if your kids’ schools close.  

The Coronavirus outbreak has ushered in some rogue factors. Some factors are beyond our control, but there are some things that each of us can control. We’re counting on every level of leadership to do the same. 

Nix the Guilt    

For many working parents, asking for what you need can feel uncomfortable. It can feel like a request for special treatment. That’s simply not the case.  There are plenty of ways that your role as a parent informs and refines those skills that anchor your professional game. Think of the leadership, communication, teamwork, crisis management and troubleshooting skills that you hone on the home front and bring to the office. Working parents are known for being especially productive employees. You have nothing to apologize for. 

Feeling guilty because you need what you need means that you’re doing unpaid work that nobody requested. This is a time to boss your emotions around; you can’t afford to be needlessly siphoning energy away from the two big roles that you already fill.  

“Unprecedented” is the word of the day. Your ability to deliver 100% for your team may be disrupted right now, just as other supply chains have been disrupted. This ripple effect is global; this is not on you. 

Productivity Tips for a WFH Day 

It can be challenging if you find yourself working from home with kids who are stuck in the house.  Consider these tips:  

  • Lean into the flex: If you’re a lark or an owl, for example, get your most taxing work done in the early morning or late at night when your house is peaceful. If you can get your deliverables done, and then just monitor messages during your kids’ most active hours, you stand to be productive and protect your precious sanity.
  • Be honest about your limitations: It’s hard to feel confident leading a conference call when your kids are home, for example. Be upfront about how this situation impacts your ability to be present in your role. It’s better for your peace of mind and your job performance to own your limitations than to overextend and overstress. Remember: unprecedented.
  • Come up with initiatives to keep the kids busy: Read 10 (long) books and earn an awesome prize. Paint a mural. Dig the world’s biggest hole in the yard. Make slime. Build blanket forts. Aim to keep your kids busy, but don’t sweat it if they have to spend time watching movies or playing videos games. Don’t fault yourself if you can’t give them a popup educationally enriching experience. That’s too much to expect of yourself.
  • Use sick time: If you or your kids are sick, take sick time. Don’t overextend yourself. If you’re working remotely and your kids are home, you’re already doing two jobs. If anyone gets sick, it becomes three jobs. Tap out. Take care of yourself and your family.

Your Wellness Matters   

Be patient with yourself. Own your limitations. Remember: wellness is the goal of this forced hibernation. Deliver what you can, and let the rest go.   


Additional Resources

What Employees & Employers Need to Know About the Coronavirus

Coronavirus Outbreak: How Employers & Employees Are Responding

Could I Lose My Job Because of Coronavirus Fears?

8 Tips for Working From Home or Remotely

100% Remote! 13 Cool Companies to Apply to Today