There’s a lot of talk about family-friendly workplace practices, but what’s the reality? Is it all just a trend or is there real business value when it comes to putting family-centric policies in place?
What Is a Family-Friendly Workplace?
While the term family-friendly is really broad, there are generally some key elements that are seen in workplaces embracing these policies. Examples of family-friendly workplaces include:
- Employees are offered flexible policies including in terms of time off. What can be different in a family-friendly environment, however, is that the policies are not only available. Employees are also encouraged to utilize them. This is in comparison to a company that might claim to be family-friendly because of its leave policies but discourages people from actually taking advantage of them.
- The leadership of family-friendly organizations also tend to take advantage of the policies that allow them to spend more time with their family. If employees see their boss is constantly working late and never takes time off, even in the face of an emergency, they’re going to think they should follow suit, even if there are technically family-friendly policies.
- How are employees treated when they take time off? Are employees made to feel like they’ve missed something or fallen behind because they had a sick child, as an example?
- What are the policies like for people who are having children? Does the workplace offer paid maternity leave? What about paternity leave? Are there options for families who adopt?
- Another component of many modern family-friendly workplaces are flexible work arrangements. This means that parents may be able to work from home a day or two a week as an example, and therefore save money on childcare. This is just one of the many flexible work scenarios that might be in place.
- Childcare tends to be one of the most expensive things most parents and families pay for, so some employers offer on-site daycare or things like flexible spending accounts or subsidies to offset the cost of childcare.
- Many companies are looking not only at child-related family issues but also putting policies in place for employees who are caring for an aging or sick parent or relative.
Business Benefits of a Family-Friendly Workplace
There has been a lot of debate at the federal and state government levels as to how much should be done to make sure businesses are family-friendly. Some people are reluctant to agree to the government enacting blanket policies, but businesses should realize that there are business benefits to these kinds of workplaces if they put them in place on their own. Some of the business benefits of being family-friendly include:
- When businesses around the U.S. are surveyed, one of their top concerns seems to almost always be the skills gap and the shortage of talent. Employers are having an extremely difficult time filling positions with talented people, and they’re ultimately falling behind as a result, or they’re having to invest a lot in training people to get them where they need to be. By offering family-friendly policies, businesses will have access to a wider, more diverse talent pool. For example, a family-friendly workplace could bring a mother or father back into the workplace or could serve as an excellent retention tool. For businesses to be competitive in the coming years, they’re going to have to be able to overcome the skills shortage, and one way to do that is by implementing family policies.
- Family-friendly policies tend to be especially appealing to women, who don’t want to feel like they have to choose between work and family. When a business has these policies, they’re going to be more likely to have women advancing into leadership positions. That has been shown to provide significant business benefits.
- Going back to the skills gap is the idea that employees are somewhat in the driver’s seat right now. Unemployment is low, and talent is in demand. Having a flexible workplace that encourages a family-friendly balance is likely to keep good employees happy and productive, and that’s excellent for retention when many businesses are competing to get the best talent.
- Even though the only reason for doing it shouldn’t be public perception, a family-friendly workplace is undoubtedly good for branding. It’s good for employer branding, which is excellent for attracting talent, but it’s also going to be good for external customer branding. Consumers and particularly Millennials want to do business with organizations they see as having values that reflect their own.
How Can A Business Implement Family-Friendly Practices?
The concept of being a family-friendly business can seem great, but what happens in reality? It can be difficult to implement, and it can come with costs. There are ways to balance those costs and ultimately maximize your ROI.
You don’t have to start out offering everything. Instead, survey your employees and ask for their feedback as to the things that are most important to them and think about introducing just one or two into policies.
Employers need to assess the family-friendly policies that are popular and find the ones that will work well for them. Also, make sure to have in place easy-to-use leave management systems which will enable employees easily request time off.
For example, a small business might not have the resources to offer extended paid time off for new parents, but they can offer flexible work options and telecommuting. There are a lot of ways to incorporate family-friendly elements into a business, even on a small budget or with limited resources.
Another low-cost family-friendly option is offering a variety of lactation support. While there are laws in place to cover some areas of protection for breastfeeding mothers, businesses can do more if this is relevant to their workforce.
For example, employers can create lactation rooms with breast pumps, or they can provide a lactation consultant to employees after they give birth.
Finally, no matter what policies a business decides on, they have to be not just offered, but encouraged. Market family-friendly policies and available options and ensure that employees are well-trained on what’s available, and feel comfortable utilizing it. Employees should never feel shame because they take time off that’s available to them to go to a child’s doctor’s appointment as an example. Employers can lead the way by following the policies in their own lives.