Great leaders are always looking for ways to empathize with and support their colleagues. They know that you get the best output from employees when you take the time to genuinely care for them and address their individual ne.
However, a large segment of the working population may be missing out on the efforts that companies are making to help their employees adjust to the emotional dynamics that come with social distancing and working from home.
According to Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans over the age of 18 were single in 2017 and with divorce rates increasing, that percentage has likely risen in the last few years. Meanwhile, 71% of adults are living without children in their home.
There’s no question that efforts to contain the coronavirus have put an extraordinary demand on couples and single parents forced to work from home with young (and even older) kids nearby. They do and will continue to need additional flexibility from their employers.
But make sure you aren’t focusing all your attention on supporting working parents while the ne of employees in other family types are underserved. Start by helping to address these four challenges that uniquely impact families composed of one or two adults.
1. Fighting the perception that they are having an easier time
Everyone is living through a difficult experience right now, but not in the same ways or for the same reasons. Adult-based families may not be struggling with entertaining toddlers or explaining a pandemic to a scared eight-year-old child, but they may be worried about a high-risk family member, called upon to assist an aging parent or struggling to manage their own fears and anxiety.
Just because you can’t easily guess the challenges your colleague in an adult-based family are having right now doesn’t mean they are sitting around counting their blessings or enjoying the free time. Resist the urge to make jokes about how nice it must be for them and don’t allow other colleagues to make these jokes either.
Deliberately create an environment where no team member will feel the need to hide or diminish what they are really going through.
In addition, while there may be times when an employee in an adult-based family picks up the slack for a colleague who is managing around children, don’t assume that balancing childcare is the only reason you may need to adjust workloads on your team.
Admittedly, there’s so much to discuss about kids right now; it’s understandable why that’s an easy go-to conversation topic. You don’t have to stop people from emailing those baby pictures or telling a cute kid story because most of the time, it’s uplifting to everyone. Besides, there is no denying that working parents need the outlet.
The point is to make sure as a leader that your remote team-building conversations remain balanced and that you frequently shift to other topics so the discussion remains relevant to everyone. Think about hobbies, pets, goals, things you’re learning, favorite television shows, books, podcasts and food. These are universal topics that can generate a wider net of experiences.
3. Longing for their people
Single people especially may be living apart from the person or people that regularly support their mental and emotional well-being. While they may rarely have felt lonely before, a deep longing for their friends or extended family could take hold now or in the weeks to come.
Video calls work well, but there is nothing like being physically with someone that knows, loves and accepts you.
Be on the lookout for dips in energy or demeanor changes and continue to check on your colleagues as the weeks pass. People start out with a lot of inspiring thoughts about what they can do with their newly found time at home, but being alone or with limited human interactions for long periods of time isn’t a familiar experience for most people.
Help serve as an additional outlet for your team members to connect with when needed. While they can’t have the quality of connection they are used to, they may benefit from increasing the quantity of interactions with people who care about their well-being. Be one of them.
Parenthood often leads to a schedule that revolves around the family’s home. While kids certainly have day care, school and their activities, being at home is a large part of the working parent’s routine.
For adult-based families, finding a rhythm living and working at home may be more difficult. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it is something to consider as you think about the ne of your teammates. Make sure you know, if you don’t already, how your colleague is adjusting to being at home so much. Is it comfortable? Is it odd? What has been the hardest part?
The point of these discussions is not to find issues where there are none. It’s to just make sure they know you appreciate that this is a major adjustment for all and it isn’t easy.
By ensuring that all your colleagues feel seen and supported in the days and weeks ahead, each of these challenges can be improved upon or overcome. If you’ve previously focused solely on the ne of working parents, now is the time to show the rest of your team a little extra love.