Changing Company Culture to Include Kids — and Keep Parents Sane

We think we can safely say that anyone who’s home with kids during the pandemic deserves all the extra superhero medals, pats on the back, and any other reward we can think of. We’ve all been on the Zoom calls with kids interrupting, asking for snacks, fighting, you name it — and many of us have been those parents and caregivers trying hard to calm, soothe, and care for kids while coworkers are watching. With a fall school term of distance learning becoming more likely, the disruption will continue.

Garbiella Rosen Kellerman and Kim Vu

Be the “island of calm”

The ground keeps moving between the feet of parents and caregivers, especially this summer as they weigh the options for children’s schooling this fall. Your job as organizational leaders, says Kellerman, is to remind them — and keep reminding them — that you won’t let them down.

Normalize chaotic interactions — and never apologize for them

At Remitly, managers were told early in the pandemic that there were to be no criticisms of daily-life disruptions during video calls, Vu explains. “Everyone — from the top all the way down to the people-manager level — was very explicit about how meetings were being run, and that they were to be inclusive,” she says. “The idea was that there was no reason to ever apologize for kids, pets, deliveries — all the things that happen when you’re at home — showing up in the middle of a meeting.”

Institute check-ins on emotional well-being as well as performance

Along with showing compassion for the warts-and-all views of home life, Vu says Remitly has worked hard to normalize the routine of proactively asking parents and caregivers if they need help. “We need to get past the business-as-usual ‘What’s on your plate? What’s due this week?’ kind of conversations around performance,” Vu says. “We have to check in on the person to make sure that they have what they need so the manager knows how to support not only the individual, but also the team.”

Encourage vacations of any kind

Most of us are staying close to home this summer, if we go anywhere at all. But that doesn’t mean workers, and especially parents and caregivers, shouldn’t take time off if they’d normally do so.

Create spaces for peers to share strategies and support each other

Parents and caregivers are hugely resourceful and resilient people at the best of times. When the rubber hits the road, they’re going to be each other’s best source of support.

Threshold Ventures