Communicate effectively when professional and parenting responsibilities overlap
Remote working has risen in adoption over the past year or so of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, as the rest of the world starts to shift toward a return to normality, a return to the office isn’t necessarily on the cards. Companies have noted the immense benefits of remote operations, alongside recognizing that this flexible approach can be instrumental in retaining talented staff.
Indeed, one recent study predicts that by 2025, 70% of the workforce will be remote at least five days per week. As such, it may be likely remote or hybrid work will be a permanent part of your life.
When you’re a parent this can seem like an ideal option. You are empowered to pursue your career. While also using practices that help you to balance your childcare responsibilities. It’s not always an easy road, of course. The need to juggle both can lead to mistakes being made, often caused by or resulting in professional miscommunication.
Needless to say, communication is particularly vital when you’re operating distantly. So, we’re going to take a look at how you can best approach your professional communications. As a parent working remotely.
It is a sign of the unhealthy way our society views work that parents often feel as though they are a burden on their employers. Yet, this attitude doesn’t empower you to thrive and can hold you back from requesting the resources you need. It is not your place to minimize requests for support; rather, it helps everyone involved if you clearly communicate your needs.
You should take time to assess and discuss what tools can impact your effectiveness as a remote worker. This is particularly important when it comes to elements that might make your professional communications easier, more effective, and consistent throughout the day — including faster or more secure internet access. If you have essential meetings during the week, it can be wise to discuss with human resources (HR) what access to childcare they can provide to minimize the potential for disruptions.
Remember, your communications in this regard should include being open with your employer about where responsibilities for reimbursement lie. After all, there is often the assumption that you should shoulder the cost for the equipment you use there because you’re working from home. This is not only inaccurate, but it also places additional financial stress on you. There are certain standard equipment and service expenses that can be reimbursed by your employer.
This includes any work equipment costs, internet connection, home office furniture, and software subscriptions among others. Not only are there laws and regulations governing this, but your employer will also be able to claim tax breaks on these items in ways you can’t. Make a point of discussing your company’s reimbursement plan and their preferred method for arranging such tools. This way, everyone is clear on how to proceed.
As a parent, you know how important it is to maintain your adult relationships away from your children. In many ways, the same goes for effectively communicating at work. You need to make sure you keep making connections to professional figures besides your customers and your direct supervisor.
This begins with your colleagues. Even when you’re working remotely, they make up an essential part of your activities. While it may not be as easy to do so outside of the office, keep having conversations with your coworkers. If there isn’t one already set up by the company, request a channel on your company’s preferred communications platform for just casual chat.
Encourage mutual openness about what parts of your personal lives might affect your schedule. This communication gives you and the colleague information that can help you all create solutions when there are difficulties you may need to overcome.
However, it is just as important to put some attention toward growing and maintaining your external professional network. When you’re working remotely, it can seem as though it is harder to meet people and build relationships. But being able to communicate effectively with a strong network gives you access to additional tools and knowledge in your industry, as well as information about new jobs.
This means you need to put in place measures that make it convenient to keep building your network. Strategies that empower you to efficiently connect the right people both remotely and in person. This may involve scheduling time dedicated specifically to join groups in your field of expertise. Or utilizing your social media channels to identify and engage with your peers. Remember, though, to treat your contacts as people rather than professional tools, you are seeking quality connections — and therefore better communication opportunities.
As a remote worker, it can be easy to get caught up in the business reasons for communication. You’ll talk about your work tasks, you’ll discuss challenges. However, as a parent, one of the points for discussion it can be easy to overlook is that of your boundaries.
Make no mistake, without attention to this area you can swiftly find yourself struggling to prevent burnout. This is usually because when you make the move to remote operations, the expectations for engagement can change. Employers and clients sometimes tend to assume that because your office is now in your home. Hence you will always be available to them. Indeed, you may find yourself falling into the trap of agreeing to out-of-hours actions once or twice. And before you know it you’ve taken on the responsibility to provide an unexpected additional (often unpaid) service.
You, therefore, need to be clear in communicating what your boundaries are. This needs to be approached positively but firmly, as aggression may cause rifts. Give context to set your boundaries, why it is important to you and the company. And even invite your colleagues to share their boundaries with you. Set clear expectations about when you’re available and how you should be contacted during these times. Communicate boundaries about your break times too, and be strict with yourself about enforcing these.
Communication is the cornerstone of successful remote operations. When you’re a parent working from home it can be particularly vital, and potentially more challenging. You can keep your professional communications tight by seeking supportive resources. And maintaining valuable internal and external network relationships. Above all else, clarity on your boundaries helps everyone to move forward positively. And keeps your working life healthy and productive.