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How to Support Employees Who Are Working From Home With Kids

September 14, 2020
Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team
September 14, 2020 | Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

This article was updated on November 23, 2021

As society continues to recover from the pandemic, things are re-opening and many children are returning to in-person classes. However, many parents still work from home and are in need of finding the proper work-life balance to support their household. 

What parents need to succeed, according to Forbes, are flexible workplaces that make accommodations and help them cope with school reopening plans. If you have parents on your team, read on. This guide will examine how small business owners can institute policies to help and support parents working from home with younger children.

Current state of employees who work from home with children

If you are a working mom or dad, you may have already faced the challenges of taking care of younger children during work hours. Finding this work-life balance is especially more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic when many parents are still working from home. Parents with younger children comprise almost one-third of the country's workforce. If they can't do their jobs, the country and economy's ability to overcome the virus could be in jeopardy.

But that's exactly what's happening, according to The Brookings Institute:

"The uncertainty surrounding child care and in-person instruction for school-aged children is unprecedented, with a cascading set of consequences on family life, education, and earnings."

Keeping up with work while managing younger kids isn't just a parental stressor, Brookings says. It could be key to the pandemic recovery.

Gathering the data: The importance of communicating with employees

Pre-pandemic, many companies tried to roll out headline-grabbing benefits in order to woo talented working parents. Think: Unlimited sick leave, food vouchers, flexible working hours, and breastfeeding pods. But many of those are obsolete now and, in many cases, not really what parents want and need given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The truth is, in this new normal, parents need practical solutions in order to care for a younger child in the household while trying to stick to their work schedule. The best way to deliver them is to gather data and have conversations with staff to find out just what kind of support they need. Whether it's giving them a flexible schedule or providing workers with young children a dedicated workspace for days they want to leave the house, talk to your team to see how you can best support them during the course of this global pandemic and beyond. 

This doesn't need to be anything large-scale or expensive - simply sitting down one-on-one with employees or in small groups to identify problems they're facing is all it takes. A lot of times, employees (people, in general) know exactly how their problems could be solved with some support. As a business owner, you can be that helping hand.

Sometimes all a working parent needs is a flexible remote work schedule. When there is a younger child in the household, a parent may have to take a longer lunch break to take their child to the park or help them with their remote learning if their school is not open yet. With some COVID limitations still in place, parents may need to change their conventional work hours in order to care for and look after their younger kids.

Harvard Business Review also suggests getting Human Resources involved for regular meetings with staff to gather information, should you have HR set up. If not, an anonymous suggestion method or digital feedback system can be incredibly freeing for employees to speak their minds without fear of repercussion.

Reduce the Burden

With the information gathered, small business owners should have a clearer picture of how best to proceed and help staff who are working from home and tasked with childcare duty.

The Society of Human Resources Management cautions that before protocols are changed, employers should review their accommodations for parents working from home with an attorney to prevent any legal issues. That includes:


  • Understanding any new laws that have been put in place since you last updated your policy
  • Developing new workplace policies that address the problems you discovered your staff are experiencing
  • Making staff aware of said policies by sending either company-wide or personalized emails


Support Staff

The true work of helping working parents shoulder the burden of childcare and their careers is a multifaceted effort that will take flexibility on the part of both the employee and employer.

Here are some recommendations:

Allow flexible work arrangements - This can take on many forms. Perhaps a parent of small children needs to help their child do remote learning in the morning. In that case, an employer could allow the staff member to work later hours from the afternoon into the evening. This might also mean allowing remote work or ensuring paid leave should a family member become ill.

Employ empathy - One of the most valuable things a small business owner can give their working parent staff members is empathy and understanding. If a working parent is doing everything they can to handle their duties while caring for a child at home, an employer should respect that effort.

Encourage communication - Working parents might worry about sharing their situations for fear of being ostracized. MIT Sloan Management Review says business owners can combat this by encouraging open discussion where employees are allowed to share "their new norms."

Don't discriminate based on gender - Now more than ever, employers need to recognize that working from home with children means that men and women will be dividing their time with parenting and chores while caring for younger kids.

Help staff prepare for the worst - UNICEF recommends that business owners help staff understand what to do should they experience COVID-19 symptoms.

Make time to socialize - In July 2020, the American Enterprise Institute found that 43 percent of mothers felt isolated during the pandemic. Give parents an outlet to engage with others by encouraging casual virtual gatherings and opportunities to socialize with coworkers. These, of course, need to be strictly optional to avoid added stress.

Champion pro-family policies - Employers have the power to advocate and champion pro-family policies just on a local level, but at the state and national level as well.

Consider Back to School Situations

Unlike in the past, the upcoming school year may complicate things even more for working parents. Some schools are returning in person, while many businesses are still remote. This may make it challenging for parents to coordinate drop-off and pick up times for their children in tandem with their work meetings. This will require even more patience from employers. Here's what small business owners need to know.

School Reopening Questions

This year, in many districts across the country, some schools have opened their doors to students for in-person classes. Some schools are practicing distance learning, others a hybrid model wherein children attend two days a week, while others follow strict social distancing guidelines.

Most children are returning to in-person classes, however, schools are still grappling with the best solution to keep their children and faculty safe in the classroom. With vaccines now approved for children, many schools are considering vaccination mandates. In California, for example, many large school districts are opting to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for older students. Those who don’t agree will be asked to continue class from home virtually. Similar mandates might become more widespread over the coming months, and makes for some uncertainty in households about the best course of action to return to a normal school setting.

Again, small business owners can help. Here's how.

A Parent-First Mindset

How your business will succeed as we continue to navigate the pandemic may depend on the working parents you employ, so it behooves you to help them out. Whether you are hiring new staff during COVID or your changing working conditions for your current employees, think about the unique obligations parents are facing today. Consider that they might need:

Extra time off - If a child shows COVID-19 symptoms, not only can they not attend class, they need to quarantine and be monitored for at least 14 days. Allowing parents the freedom to take that time without fear of retribution will help them. With the passing of the Families First Coronavirus Response Actall employees can now receive two weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds their normal pay rate to care for children where schools or childcare are not open due to COVID-19.

Prepare for disruptions - Because the new school year plans are a shifting target, workplaces need to be flexible - especially when parents who thought they could return to the office have to stay home to watch kids when their schools close due to an outbreak.

Thrive factor - As much as a parent might love their job, anecdotal evidence suggests that they'll ultimately put family first and, in this stressful situation, kids still need to thrive. Reassuring staff that their kids come first will take the pressure off them to stress their time management.

Encourage parents to speak out - Parents may be wary of becoming a burden on employers during COVID-19 disruptions. Harvard Business Review suggests that this can be mitigated if parents feel comfortable talking to their manager or boss.

Train employees on new technology - Remote work requires that people overcome their tech phobias and fast. Smart employers would do well to help train and provide resources to staff that helps them use remote tech tools.

Share the load - The Employment Law Business Guide says business owners should, when possible, consider "whether job sharing or a temporary shift to part-time status will work for the employer and the employee."

Childcare/Childshare - If at all possible, the same Guide above recommends considering whether childcare subsidies are possible as a benefit to working parents.

Lead with compassion - When a baby can be heard crying in the background of a Zoom call, or a toddler interrupts a phone meeting screaming "I need to go potty," rather than indulge any frustration, employers need to remember to be compassionate and understanding.

Put Community First

Neighbors want to support small businesses that put people first. If that's your business, let people know by joining Nextdoor, where you can connect with the neighbors that live near your business. Made up entirely of real people, Nextdoor is filled with the same people you might run into on Main Street or at the local hardware store. They're invested in their neighborhoods, and they're the people you want to know about your business.

It's easy to get started. Claim your free Nextdoor Business Page to connect with nearby customers and share how you're working to make your clients and staff feel as supported as possible.

Claim your Business Page

Additional sources:

The Brookings Institute. Working parents are key to COVID-19 recovery.

Forbes. Want Productive Working Parents During The Pandemic? Help Them Cope With School Reopening Plans.

Harvard Business Review.The Best Ways Your Organization Can Support Working Parents

SHRM. Accommodating Working Parents During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

MIT Sloan Management Review. How to Help Employees Work From Home With Kids.

UNICEF. 7 ways employers can support working parents during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

PBS NewsHour. Parents juggling jobs and COVID-19 See No Good Solutions.

Indie Star. Notre Dame moves to online classes, closes public spaces for 2 weeks to stop COVID spike.

Forbes. Third High School In One Metro Atlanta County Is Closing After Coronavirus Outbreak.

Harvard Business Review. How Working Parents Can Prepare for Coronavirus Closures.

McLane Middleton. How Can Employers Support Working Parents This School Year?


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Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting business, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook

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