Managers: Here are 3 Ways to Support Your Team During the Back-to-School Transition

There's a lot going on mentally and emotionally for parents during back-to-school. Here are three ways you, the manager, can support your team.

For many, September is a transition month. The seasons start to change, pumpkin spice pops up everywhere, and kiddos head back to school. While September can bring about regular stressors in a good year, this year – during a global pandemic – is especially difficult.

Many parents have sent their children back to school with many unknowns and a lot of uncertainty. There’s fear that their children may contract the illness, there are new rules in place that can feel a little daunting, and there’s a mountain of reading to do on policies, procedures, and protocols.

In short, there’s a lot going on right now mentally and emotionally for parents.

So the question becomes…what can you, as a manager, do to support your team during this transitionary period?

That’s what we’ll explore in this video.

1Address the transition head-on with your team during your 1-on-1 meetings

The first suggestion we have is to address the transition head-on with your team.

In your next one-on-one meeting with your direct report, ask how things are going with the transition. Ask them how they are feeling, how their family feels, and if there’s anything that could happen at work that would make them feel better supported.

One thing to be cautious about – don’t assume that you know what they need or that a one-size-fits-all-approach is best. Check-in with each team member and adapt your problem-solving and solution-offering to each person based on their individual needs.

The simple act of checking in with your team may surface some feelings that you may not even know are under the surface and it will help you determine if there are any gaps in the way that you, or the company, are supporting your team through this transition.

2Be empathetic, flexible, and compassionate during the transition

The second suggestion is to be empathetic, flexible, and compassionate during this time. Even if your situation may be different, try to really listen to and understand what your team is going through during this time.

Understand that this transitionary period won’t last forever so doing what you can to be flexible and accommodating now will go a long way to building positive morale and ensuring that your team doesn’t get burnt out.

Harvard Business Review put it best when they said that:

Inclusive flexibility is about proactive communication and norm-setting that helps people design and preserve the boundaries they need.

By checking in and practicing flexibility, you’ll stay ahead of any potential issues (and not rely on your already-stressed-out team members to surface it on their own) and help create a helpful and inclusive work environment.

3Affirm and model family responsibilities as a company

Finally, affirm and model family responsibilities. It’s difficult to tell your team members that you empathize and understand and are willing to accommodate their needs during this time if you don’t model family responsibilities as an organization.

Make sure to be transparent in your communication to the entire company about external responsibilities and, if you’re the leader of the company or a manager of teams, talk about your own experiences, too.

Here’s the thing: if you, as the CEO or the manager, are working 20 hour days, propping up a hustle culture, keeping your family life a secret, or not opening up personally, it will set a tone throughout your company that work/life integration isn’t valued or important.

One thing that you can do is include a personal story in your weekly updates, at a team meeting or at an all-hands or perhaps start a thread in a casual Slack channel where people can share pictures of their families, pets, or special moments from their personal and social lives. On a one-on-one basis, your individual 1-on-1 meetings are a great place to do this.

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