In the past, many families opted to have one parent stay home and care for their children. However, this is no longer the norm. Today, more than 65% of women with young children work outside the home. Mothers are the primary breadwinner in 40% of families with children under the age of 18, and nearly 5 million of those mothers are married and out earn their spouse.
To hire and retain top talent, employers must acknowledge the realities of working families and foster a culture that values work-life balance. In the following, we outline several ways employers can increase health, wellness, and workplace productivity while respecting your employees’ family life.
1. Identify Important Transition Points
While a parent’s needs certainly don’t end after their maternity or paternity leave, it is a challenging transition point where working parents require more support. Your company should build systems that support a smooth departure to and return from maternity and paternity leave.
New parenthood isn’t the only transition point your employees face. Consult with your workers to identify other times when they might need additional support. A review of your attrition data might show pain points that you weren’t aware of — such as when school-age children’s activities and scheduling pressures increase.
During these transitions, educate parents about their employee benefits, including paid time-off and healthcare coverage. You can also teach them about common wellness issues that might impact their health and productivity (such as post-partum depression) and provide easy-to-use guides that connect employees with the services they need.
2. Offer Flexible Working Schedules
When you have a child, the unexpected is bound to happen. From ear infections to school closures, parents sometimes deal with inconvenient last-minute changes to their expected schedules. Not every job or task offers flexibility, but you should still look for creative ways to accommodate a caregiver’s needs.
3. Consider Offering Childcare Assistance as an Employee Benefit
In the Bay Area, the average cost of childcare is about $1,500 each month. In comparison, the average California family’s household income is about $64,000. This means your employees might pay 28% of their salary or more for childcare. However, high-quality early childcare is important regardless of cost, as it has been shown to improve a child’s academic skills and decrease behavioral health issues.
Childcare benefits don’t have to involve an onsite facility. You can also identify other creative benefit options. This might involve including childcare as a covered expense in your flexible spending account or negotiating reduced rates for your employees with a local childcare provider.
4. Don’t Assume Your Employees Are on the “Parent Track”
Sometimes, employers incorrectly assume that parents and caregivers are too preoccupied to take on major projects or responsibilities. This can lead to frustration and employee attrition. In one Harvard Business Review study, a significant number of mothers reported that they “opted out” of the workforce because they were involuntarily placed on an unfulfilling “mommy track.”
Rather than assume your employees’ capacities, create a welcoming culture that encourages openness and respect of each individuals’ goals and priorities. While some of your employees might want to scale back on their workload, others will be anxious to take on the challenge.
5. Acknowledge the Wear and Tear of Work Travel
If your employees travel extensively for work, consider its impact on their health, wellness, and personal life. For example, research suggests it takes 3-5 days to recover from jet lag. Parents also need time to reconnect with their children after a lengthy business trip.
Sometimes, work travel is inevitable, but employers should establish guidelines that help employees balance their work and family life. For example, companies could consolidate trips or offer flexible work schedules before and after major business trips.
6. Leverage and Destigmatize Your Current Benefit Programs and Resources
You might already have a wide variety of resources available for active parents, including generous vacation and paid time-off, peer mentoring programs, and flexible work schedules — but how many parents are actually using them?
Assess your human resource data and look for parents who might be headed toward burnout because they’re ignoring the available support networks. And if you notice a large number of your employees are missing out on essential caregiving benefits, assess their knowledge of the programs and potential stigma surrounding them.
7. Cut Back on After-Hours Meetings and Communications
In our digital age, many companies have transitioned to an “always on” workplace. Does your company encourage or tolerate the scheduling of evening meetings and sending emails on Friday nights? It’s easy for employees to feel overwhelmed when they have to balance the 24/7 pull of an always-on employer with their duties and obligations as parents. To combat work-life balance fatigue, consider restricting after-hours meetings and setting up communication systems that rank emails based on their urgency.
8. Help Parents and Their Children Access Quality Preventive Care
Working families need access to high-quality healthcare. Preventive care, including vaccinations and well visits, can help keep your employees and their children healthy and productive. When they join Canopy Health, a primary care physician coordinates their care, making sure your employees and their families get the treatment they need. Further, our robust alliance offers a wide variety of treatment options, including walk-in clinics and telehealth.
9. Not All Caregivers Are Biological Parents
The Bay Area is a diverse place. Don’t assume that someone isn’t the primary caretaker of a child based on their age, gender, sexual orientation, or marital status. You might discover that your workforce includes grandparents, foster parents, same-sex partners, and others that play a vital role in the life of a child.
Ely, R., Stone, P., Ammerman, C. (2014, December). Rethink what you “know” about high-achieving women. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/12/rethink-what-you-know-about-high-achieving-women
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2006, January). The NICHD study of early child care and youth development (NIH Pub. No. 05-4318). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/seccyd_06.pdf
Reese, P. (2018, August 10). See how much child care costs in each California county. Sacramento Bee. Retrieved from https://www.sacbee.com
The American family today. (2015, December 17). Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/