This guest post comes from working mom Wendy Kirwan, who works for a nonprofit and has some excellent ideas about how to make workplaces more parent-friendly. Very inspiring — see if you can get your employer to adopt some of these. Or show your appreciation if they already do. — Susan
Marissa Mayer notwithstanding, juggling a career and a family isn’t easy. And yet, 70 percent of women with children under age 18 choose to join the labor force (or feel they have no other choice!).
Luckily, many companies do recognize the challenge moms face in the workplace. And they also recognize that a good work/life balance enables employees to be more productive workers overall.
That being said, not every company has the resources or the flexibility to give mothers extended paid leave after birth, or other traditional but expensive family friendly benefits. Increasingly, businesses are coming up with less-costly, nonconventional ways of showing their commitment to a mom-friendly workplace. Even if your employer doesn’t offer one of these practices as an official policy, you may be able to work together to customize a plan that makes life at work easier for you.
- On-site child care is the wave of the future. More and more companies are discovering the benefits of offering on-site daycare to employees: less absenteeism, lower turnover and increased productivity, for starters. Kars4Kids, a car donation charity in New Jersey, is one organization that offers this benefit to its employees, many of whom are parents, and is reaping the benefits. Unilever, the global company behind so many familiar brands from Dove to Lipton, offers a similar benefit: backup child care for the days that an employee’s regular childcare provider is unavailable.
- How’s this for creativity: a free concierge service. Employees of WellStar Health System in Georgia who are parents are particularly appreciative of the complimentary service, which fulfills requests from grocery shopping and errand running to event planning, reducing the stresses of balancing home and work life.
- For nursing moms, lactation rooms are a big plus. Even law firms, notorious for offering poor work/life balance, are jumping on the bandwagon with this one. Reed Smith is one example: a new mother’s room awaits moms when they return from their 18-week (!) parental leave. And Ernst and Young will ship mom’s breast milk home when she’s away on a business trip.
- Implementing a successful babies-at-work program is not easy but small companies like Vanguard Communications, a Washington, D.C.-based, Latina-owned public relations and social marketing firm, have proven that it can be done.
- No challenge is too great when you know you’re not alone. Sharing experiences with other parents of young children and hearing from people who have been there and been successful is a priceless benefit. Unilever is one company that gives employees this opportunity with its Working Parents’ Network.
- Maintaining good health is important but too often neglected with the distractions of everyday life. Besides for its three health and wellness centers, TIAA-Cref, a financial services organization, offers health insurance to even part-time employees working a minimum of 21 hours a week.
- Perhaps most necessary for working parents is the availability of flexible work arrangements. Flextime allows employees to rearrange their schedules as necessary, getting the same amount of work done but at times that are convenient for them. Telecommuting gives employees the option of working from home. Jobsharing, less common, divides one full-time job and its accompanying salary between two part-time workers. Even accounting firms, known for their demanding schedules, can work with employees in this area: Deloitte boasts that 90% of its employees work flexibly.
- When you have to get kids ready for school in the morning, the last thing you have time to worry about is lunch. Kars4Kids makes lunchtime easy with free hot, catered lunch for its employees.
- Some companies are taking parental leave a step further by offering a reintegration period when new parents return from leave, making their adjustment smoother. Intel’s New Parent Reintegration program allows employees to temporarily modify their work schedule for a defined period of time after returning to work.
- Truly family-friendly workplaces invite employees’ families to the office for fun family events where they can socialize and build a feeling of community among colleagues. Children of employees at Contact Solutions, a hosted customer service provider, enjoy periodic Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Days at the company’s headquarters in Virginia.
Wendy Kirwan is the director of media relations at Kars4Kids, a car donation charity specializing in education for youth. Wendy holds a BA in business journalism from CUNY’s Baruch College. Most importantly, she is a wife and mother, and is thrilled to work at a nonprofit that accommodates its many mom employees.