Going back to school in 2020 is unlike any other year. Whether schools decide to continue with virtual learning, in-person instruction, or a hybrid model that combines the two, the reverberations of these decisions will be felt across local business communities.

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For working families as well as families with essential workers, there is the strong likelihood that they will continue to need flexibility and empathy from their employers. The good news is that businesses have been adapting their models since March to accommodate remote workers, which means they’ve had six months to see what works, what can be improved, and what is needed for the coming school year.

Here are four ways businesses can help their employees prepare and stay focused in the upcoming school year:

1. Remain flexible as long as the job is getting done. The past six months have proven that people can be productive while working from home. As long as the results are there, projects are being completed and services are delivered, there should be flexibility to accommodate the widely varied back to school schedules that are being thrust upon parents.

2. Provide updates on how employees and teams should stay connected. Chances are you have tested out different ways to communicate with employees. Now is a good time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work. Then, provide an official policy update to your team and let them know the preferred ways to connect moving forward.

3. Delegate responsibilities and avoid micromanaging. Allowing your hardworking employees more autonomy can be mutually beneficial. It will cut down on the amount of time you spend micromanaging, and it will enable them to focus more on their actual work and tasks at hand. Also, your employees could be juggling a lot right now at home, so they will appreciate being able to do their jobs without being disrupted when it’s not necessary to intervene.

4. Allow your staff to unplug and recharge. As the lines continued to be blurred between working from home and living at home, there needs to be some clear separation established especially after work hours. As long as your team is completing their work and being productive, it is vital to let them unplug and recharge. Don’t expect your employees to be on the clock 24/7, and make sure they know that it’s okay to let a few things wait until the next day. This sentiment will be appreciated and your staff will be much less likely to get burned out when they have that important time to tend to themselves and their families.

Ultimately, this is not a typical back to school year and everyone’s calendars have been flipped upside-down and reshuffled. With that said, by showing flexibility, being clear in your communications and expectations, and rewarding hardworking employees, your business can continue to adapt and hopefully thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic.