The juggling act: Home schooling and working from home arrangements

April 16, 2020

By Kylie Lynam | Director


On Monday 13 April, the Queensland Government announced that students will operate under a home-based learning model for at least the first five weeks of Term 2, up until Friday 22 May. A further decision will be made regarding the second half of Term 2 by mid-May.

During this period, ALL students except for vulnerable students and children of essential workers are to be supervised at home.

I am certain many of us were preparing ourselves for the prospect of home schooling, the reality of it being finalised definitely was a little overwhelming! How could I possibly run a business from home and support two primary-aged school children with their schooling needs? Don’t misunderstand me, I do love my children, but I am also very aware of my limitations, particularly when it comes to schooling my own children and I also appreciate that to do it properly requires dedicated time.

As a small business owner, I started to turn my mind to the necessary discussions that employers and their teams need to be having for this to work.

The ability to home school and manage your working hours as you have in the past may simply not be possible. I am not saying parents can’t do both, but it would be impractical to think that working full time hours while needing to dedicate some 3 to 4 hours on assisting children with their schooling needs can be achieved without some changes.

So, what should employers do to address this now?

Take some of the pressure off your already anxious team and schedule conversations with those that will be impacted by home schooling responsibilities:

  • Being proactive with team members and setting realistic expectations about what can be accomplished is necessary to prevent misunderstandings down the line.
  • It is important to get an understanding around how team members feel they are going to be able to manage both home schooling and work commitments. 

Work out whether there is flexibility that can be achieved:

  • Can the hours be broken up into staggered shifts? Some parents find it manageable to work from 2:00pm to 6:30pm, stop for dinner and bath time, and start up again at 8:00pm and work until 11:00pm. 
  • Is there really a need to work standard hours? Consider this and whether there is an opportunity to think about work deliverables (output) rather than dedicated hours. There may need to be a level of reasonableness applied when considering this.
  • What are the optimal hours to be worked and consider when a team member will most likely be available?
  • If changes to hours can be accommodated, does the change in hours and delivery times impact anyone else’s job deliverables?
  • Consider how you are able to measure productivity if you are not already doing so and empower team members around measurable deliverables.

Consider whether an employee may wish to reduce their hours during this time: 

  • Some team members may want to reassess their work commitments during this time and depending on the business and its access to JobKeeper payments, this may be an opportunity to consider work re-design in the short term. 
  • Ensure that changing times to work from home is permitted in the applicable award. It is important to ensure any changes are documented. 

It is important to note that certain employees have an express right under the Fair Work Act 2009 to request a flexible working arrangement (‘FWA’): 

  • This includes employees who are the parent of or who have responsibility for the care of a child of school age or younger. 

Preparing for a thoughtful conversation with a team member? Here are some possible questions to ask: 

  • I understand with the new government announcement around home schooling that this may be impactful to you, how are you feeling about the changes?
  • Have you thought through what a typical day might look like for you moving forward?
  • How do you feel this may impact your ability to work from home and what do you need from me/us to support you?
  • If you could change one thing about your working day to make this more manageable what would it be?

Remember we are all trying to navigate these times as best we can and as employers we need to work with our team and get on the same page.

“Don’t build roadblocks out of assumptions” – Lorii Myers. The important thing is to have a conversation and to do this sooner rather than later.