As a parent and/or carer, the announcement of a third lockdown is likely to have come as quite a blow. School closures, restrictions on other care and support provisions, and restrictions on reaching out to your personal support networks demands a huge amount of mental fortitude at a time when we are all exhausted. Suddenly overnight we are working multiple jobs – teacher, counsellor, chef, cleaner.... and that doesn’t even include the jobs we are paid for!
No one can do it all, and admitting you need support is the first step to finding a solution. We’ve put together some guidance to help you have open and honest conversations with your manager about the challenges you are facing, and some responsive, practical solutions that may be available to support you to continue working effectively whilst also navigating these challenging times.
Below are some suggested prompts to help facilitate these conversations with your manager and steer the conversation to positive, helpful and practical solutions. PiPA has also created a partner resource for managers ‘Retaining Your Parent & Carer Worforce Throughout Covid-19' which we suggest you share with your manager before these conversations take place.
With many now facing heightened caring responsibilities and homeschooling, it can be extremely difficult to stick to previous working hours, schedules and workloads. Areas to discuss could include:
- Core hours: Can these be adjusted to accommodate homeschooling and caring responsibilities?
- Change in hours: Could my hours be compressed, or am I able to temporarily switch to part-time? Could these changes be supported by full-time or part-time furlough? (The furlough scheme has now been extended until April 2021).
- Adjusting workload: Be honest about your workload – is it manageable in the current climate? Could deadlines be moved, or is there any work that could be postponed or delegated? Could your role move to ‘task completed’ rather than hours completed?
- Job Shares: Would a job share support you with the needed flexibility to support your caring related needs?
Working from Home set-ups at the moment are far from normal – with pets and kids running wild they can feel like more like a battlefield than a home office! With increasingly busier and complicated households, disruptions while you are working are inevitable and understandable. Scheduling work around the caring responsibilities of your family/bubble can be a challenge, and there can also be a shortage of sufficient devices or broadband. Possible strategies for support could include:
- Additional devices: Does the organisation have any additional devices (laptop, tablets) they could lend you to support your work?
- Working from Home Policy: Can the organisation’s Work from Home Policy be reviewed? Useful amendments could include reassurance that background noise and potential interruptions are understandable and will not reflect negatively on you.
- Methods of communication: What is the best platform for conversations or meetings? Video calls can be good to foster a sense of connection, however, can be stressful if there are other activities going on for you at home. A mixed approach may be better - (video, phone call, instant messaging etc).
- Supportive Work Practices: Are there particular working practices you could discuss which would support your current work-life balance? For example, advance notice for meetings, avoiding back-to-back calls, scheduling shorter meetings, and ringfencing certain times of the day for focused work or caring related needs.
- Leave and Furlough: Are there just simply not enough hours in the day? Can you access Furlough, Part Time Furlough, Parental Leave and/or Time off for Dependants policies?
The concept of returning to work when it is not clear when schools, care and support provisions will reopen can be daunting. You may be particularly worried about returning to the workplace if you care for someone who is vulnerable and shielding. Open and honest communication with your manager about the challenges you face allows them to make allowances when preparing back to work plans. Below are some useful prompts for these conversations.
- Communicating changes in circumstances: Letting your manager know how your caring responsibilities have changed, means these can be factored in when you return to work. PiPA suggests requesting a 1:1 to discuss this with your manager.
- Phased Return: Could you explore a phased return to work until care provisions and support networks become reliable again? Could this be supported by flexible working and continued home working?
- Advance notice of returning: Being upfront with your manager about your caring responsibilities and how much time would be required to put sufficient provisions in place at this current time can make your return to work feel less daunting.
- Responding to sudden changes in care provisions: What is your organisation’s approach to sudden changes in care provisions such as unexpected school or care closures? Knowing these in advance and discussing any potential issues you can foresee will prepare you for when that event arises.
- Local Care Provisions: Does your organisation have contacts or links to local emergency care providers that you could access if needed? This may be contained in Staff Handbooks or Welcome Packs.
As indicated in the evidence PiPA submitted to DCMS in June, COVID restrictions and lockdown have had a negative impact on the mental health of parents and carers in performing arts, with 43% considering abandoning their career in the sector. Financial concerns, job insecurity, additional stress due to heightened caring responsibilities and isolation due to a disconnect from work and social networks have deeply affected wellbeing. Everyone’s situation is unique and there isn’t a one-size-fits all, but there are strategies for support:
- Staying Connected: Agree with your manager a line of communication so that you can still receive relevant and timely updates from and about the organisation whilst on working from home or on furlough.
- Staying Social: Are there any social activities still being run within the organisation that you can connect with (especially if you are furloughed or are an associated freelancer).
- External Support: Does your organisation have an Employment Assistance Programme or links to other support or services for your mental health and wellbeing?
Partner Resource: Retaining Your Parent and Carer Workforce Throughout Covid-19
PiPA Resources to share with your Manager:
- Home Working Guidance
- Reduced Working Guidance
- Supporting Parents & Carers Through Furlough
- Supporting Parents & Carers During Lockdown
If your organisation might be interested in learning more about PiPA or is interested in developing inclusive, accessible working practices for those with caring responsibilities, our Charter Programme will be able to help. PiPA offers hands-on support, guidance and access to over 40 Resources, Case Studies and How To Guides to help them better support (and with that attract and retain) their parent and carer workforce. For more information, contact our Charter Programme Manager Matt (email@example.com).