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Between homeschooling and video calls: How we support working parents in challenging Covid-19 times

19.07.2020

It's been five months now since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis and the lockdown that followed it has changed the way we live and work. The school year is over and many parents can now breathe a sigh of relief, because homeschooling is paused until fall. It is therefore a good time to take a moment to reflect on the crisis and make an assessment of the measures we have taken so far. Since the pandemic is not over yet and will remain a tough challenge for the foreseeable future, a review of the main learnings can be valuable for the coming season.

If you think back to February we were vigilantly watching what was happening in other countries from afar, rather than imagining how quickly and drastically the corona virus could spread to even our own cities and eventually become a global pandemic. A lot has changed since then. Like many other companies we closed our offices and all of our employees started working remotely from their homes. Working completely from home brought up new challenges, especially to those with children. “I expected it to be a lot easier. I thought we’d have more family time to spend with our kids. However, they quickly started to become tired of being at home and started to be more and more impatient. Soon they were less willing to do their work and exercises their teachers had for them which eventually made our work much more difficult”, remembers Pedro, Team Lead Engineering in Porto and father of two young children. Abruptly adjusting to working from home while homeschooling, parents had multiple roles to take on.

It was clear from the beginning that we had to give extra support to those employees who faced this challenge. Being part of the NEW WORK SE group, we benefited enormously from their broad-based crisis management. NEW WORK SE very quickly initiated the basic measures that brought rapid improvements to all employees. For example, parents' vacation days were increased by an additional two weeks and best practices for working at home were quickly and regularly shared across the organization. The benefit of being a smaller-sized tech company is our adaptability for new processes. This allowed us to find solutions on an individual level in addition to the general measures from the group. We empowered our managers to enable individual solutions in their teams as well and HR was in direct contact with all working parents to assure reliability in finding solutions tailored to the different needs. 

One particularly effective solution was to make working hours more flexible, so that employees were able to adapt the rhythm of work to that of family life. Working parents adapted their calendars, carved out family time and used their status in messaging apps to inform their colleagues when they were available. And the organization adapted accordingly. Everyone showed empathy when calls and meetings were interrupted or children burst into the meetings. Yenia, our Director Global Communications and Brand, and mother of two young children remembers when her kids set out to interrupt meeting: “At first I felt super stressed. At some point tough I came to terms with my kids interrupting meetings and I even got positive feedback because others got to see me from a different, more personal perspective. They felt this was a positive thing”. And once the office partly reopened in mid-May we ensured that parents who wanted to come back to the office were able to.

The school year is over now and so is the time of homeschooling. From the current point of view, the end of the crisis does not seem to be in sight and the relaxation that can now be seen in some parents is probably only temporary. After all, a new school year begins in the fall and the challenges will come up again. Therefore it is a perfect time to reflect on the measures we have taken to identify what worked well. 

These are our learnings:

1. The crisis can be a tremendous source of stress, especially to parents. Mental health at work is important, even more so during a pandemic. Therefore it is our leadership team’s job to provide emotional support and demonstrate reliability.

2. Open communication with each other and sharing experiences fosters trust and sympathy for the different circumstances. Additionally it enables better collaboration within teams and cross-department.  

3. Flexibility is particularly important to balance family and work. 

4. Solutions are most helpful and have full effect if they are tailored to the individual needs. The challenges that our working parents were facing varied. An open dialogue with people managers and HR helped parents find individual solutions. 


These measures have proven themselves to be extremely valuable and effective for us in the last five months and we received a lot of positive responses from our workforce on how we have been handling the situation so far. kununu is very well positioned with our strong partners of the NEW WORK SE group and our smaller company size, which enables our agility to react quickly and individually to changes. We will continue to vigilantly monitor the crisis in order to adapt our measures accordingly in due time. This way we can support our employees now and in the future in dealing with the crisis in the best possible way.

I’m Lena. I joined kununu more than 4 years ago and I am HR Business Partner. I am responsible for On- and Offboarding at kununu. Furthermore I support Learning & Development and Performance Management among other topics. During the Corona Crisis I took over the coordination of the crisis management at kununu – one of the biggest challenges in my career so far.