The new coronavirus outbreak means working parents won't have the same childcare they usually do.
Some managers are refusing to let their teams work from home when there are approximately zero responsibilities that can't be handled remotely. Other managers, perhaps because of city or corporate mandates, are allowing virtual work, but are insisting that parents have childcare during business hours.
If these were regular times, sure, that'd be reasonable. It's definitely difficult to get good work done around a 3-year-old demanding your attention. But these are not regular times. Daycares and schools are closed. Nannies might want to practice social distancing as much as the rest of us. It's really not safe for grandparents in the vulnerable 60-plus crowd to be watching kids who were trading germs with the general population three days ago. If we're going to keep the majority of citizens healthy, immediate families have to stay holed up on their own.
Given that, any manager who can but doesn't afford their reports inordinate flexibility and understanding during this crisis shouldn't be a manager. Full stop.
Yes, we need to get our jobs done. And companies still need to make money to pay their employees. But demanding that at-home workers secure childcare when it's not available or safe to do so accomplishes a few things, none of which are helpful:
It adds to parent employees' already sky-high anxiety levels. They know they need to work and entertain their children without the help they normally have—on top of keeping their families and themselves safe, which gets more complicated by the day. Giving them one more thing to worry about can make it harder for them to stay healthy.
It makes them not want to do good work. Who's more likely to put their all into their job, an employee who feels valued or one who doesn't? My manager hasn't issued any unreasonable decrees. Guess who's writing this on a Sunday while her kids are calm. (Me. It's me.) Here's another question: What's the point of making sure a worker has childcare if they're going to slack off out of spite?
It makes them want to hurt the business. I've seen multiple social media posts about unsympathetic managers. That's not the kind of PR a company wants. Your employees should be your ambassadors, talking about what a great workplace they have, so others want to work there and become customers and clients. Pressuring working parents to put their families in jeopardy or do something that's literally impossible makes workers do the opposite, tarnishing reputations and potentially hurting the bottom line.
It makes them disloyal. Companies have the unprecedented opportunity to show up for their workers in ways they've never had to. Expanding paid sick time. Providing backup care in areas where it's safe. Encouraging employees to step up in new ways to cover for those who can't. That kind of support engenders long-lasting faithfulness. Considering how expensive it is to replace workers, keeping staffers loyal makes financial sense.
Healthcare pros seem to agree: It's on the rest of us to make their jobs easier by staying home and away from as many other people as possible. That means not taking childcare resources away from them or risking others' health so they can watch our kids. Let's give them the best environment possible to succeed. Our lives depend on it.
Written by Meredith Bodgas for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.