I'm the chief people officer at Opendoor and a mother. Here are the 5 questions I'm asking parents at my company to support them through remote work.

I'm the chief people officer at Opendoor and a mother. Here are the 5 questions I'm asking parents at my company to support them through remote work.
Many working parents are navigating a new normal.Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
  • Erica Ga los Alioto is the chief people officer at Opendoor.
  • As a working parent and manager, she says that balancing work and parenting right now is particularly difficult — and can feel overwhelming to discuss.
  • To help out the working parents at her company, she's been asking five key questions to foster open conversation.
  • She recommends asking employees how they're feeling, what limitations they're dealing with, and how they can best be supported.

As a people manager and mother of two, I'm constantly thinking about ways to better champion working parents. Right now, it feels more critical than ever. With schools and daycares closed, many of us are balancing full-time work responsibilities with caring for children at home. And many of us feel like we're failing at both.

I'm the chief people officer at Opendoor and a mother. Here are the 5 questions I'm asking parents at my company to support them through remote work.
Erica Galos Alioto.Courtesy of Erica Galos Alioto
For working parents, talking openly about the burdens you're experiencing can feel overwhelming. And for managers who aren't parents, these conversations can feel uncomfortable to broach.

But as a manager, it's your responsibility to create a safe space for important conversations to be had and to help your employees feel comfortable, confident, and supported.

The following five questions have helped me and the managers I work with have more open and empathetic conversations with the parents we manage.

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1. How are you feeling?

It might seem obvious, but it's not always the first thing managers think to ask. Many parents are on an emotional rollercoaster right now and adjusting to increased responsibilities.

A recent study by Bonnier Custom Insights backs this up: It found that 55% of employed moms are having trouble engaging effectively at work because they're experiencing anxiety or stress due to the current uncertainty in their personal lives.


Asking parents a simple but meaningful question, like how they're feeling, and then really listening to the answer will help them feel more at ease with sharing their experiences. It will also reinforce that you care about them as a person and not just an employee.

2. How are you doing balancing work with additional at-home responsibilities?

Simply acknowledging that many parents are trying to balance their work responsibilities with caring for children at home — and that they're doing the best they can — will go a long way in building trust.

We recently held a virtual panel with working parents where we talked candidly about what it's like to juggle working full time with kids of all ages at home. Parents said they're relaxing rules and structure and trying to find windows of time where they can give work their full attention. On the flipside, they're trying to find moments in the day where they can give their children their full attention as well. Asking this question will help your team members feel seen and heard, and will open up the dialogue about their personal situations and the challenges they're facing.

3. What limitations do you have right now that could help reset expectations?

If possible, ask your team members who are working parents about any potential adjustments they may need in their schedule that would allow them to be more engaged.

For example, would it be helpful for them to be offline in the afternoon and wrap up work once their children are in bed? Would blocking off their calendar for lunch every day help them free up time to be with their kids? Are early morning meetings just not possible? Whatever changes you make, it's important to be clear about expectations on both sides.

It's also worth noting that many companies have had to make difficult decisions about reducing the size of their teams. We have encouraged team members to have realistic conversations with each other about what we can prioritize and get done, given our more limited resources.


4. What are some ways you're preventing or easing feelings of burnout?

Increased responsibility, limited time, and the anxiety that comes with a global pandemic are a recipe for stress. And when people are under extreme stress, they can quickly experience burnout.

A national poll by Eagle Hill Consulting found that 45% of US workers say they're burnt out right now, and one in four connect their stress to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asking this question will not only help you gauge how your team member is feeling, but may spark ideas on ways your company can help other employees ease feelings of burnout as well.

For example, many companies have been offering meditation and remote yoga sessions for team members to practice mindfulness and ease stress throughout the day. Whether or not you offer similar activities, it's important to be as supportive as possible, whether it's by providing a more flexible schedule, reducing some of their workload, or being more flexible with deadlines.

5. Is there any way I can be more supportive to you during this time?

This is an excellent, open-ended, and final question that gets at anything else you haven't covered with your team members. It puts the ball in their court and enables them to bring up any other questions, concerns, or feedback they may have. At this point in your conversation, ideally, they feel comfortable sharing or asking for anything else they might need during this chaotic time in their lives.

Communication is so important to healthy working relationships, particularly when people are facing so much uncertainty. As we navigate the challenges of adjusting to a "new normal," I've found that being open, listening, and working together to come up with helpful solutions makes all the difference.


Erica is the chief people officer at Opendoor. Prior to that, she spent 11 years at Yelp, where she served as SVP of local sales, leading a team of over 2,200 sales representatives. She is also an angel investor and advises various startups. Prior to joining Yelp, Erica was an associate at Latham and Watkins and founded and ran an apparel company. Erica received her undergraduate degree from University of California, Santa Barbara and her JD from University of California, Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law.

Read the original article on Business Insider