Employers that can reduce stresses surrounding childcare increase their chances of retaining their most talented employees.
Many companies struggle with attracting and, more importantly, retaining their best employees. There are many reasons why, of course. But one of them that we don’t talk enough about in the supply chain — though it’s been gaining national attention lately — is the issue of childcare.
This is a very personal matter to me, a working mother who struggled to find a balance between the cost of childcare and the price of my employment. And that doesn’t even cover the emotional, physical, and logistical challenges of finding somewhere to deposit young children for a good portion of the day while you earn a paycheck. But I digress…
The staggering cost of childcare
According to Care.com, the national average for at-home care is $28,354 per year, while in-center care is $8,589 per year. These numbers are often staggering to parents, who are not physically or emotionally ready to part with their newborns after a short, and for most, unpaid maternity or paternity leave.
It’s Working Project and Forty Weeks founder Julia Beck recently wrote about concerns parents consistently face when heading back to work after having a baby. At the top of the list is childcare and a general lack of support from the workplace. “Support from employers makes or breaks the deal, creating either a manageable new reality or the need for a backup plan (or even an exit),” she writes.
Don’t believe that’s true? Take a look at this statistic: 83% of millennials would leave their jobs for one with better family care benefits. As millennials represent an increasing percentage of the supply chain fabric, it’s a concern that should increasingly matter to employers.
Here’s the good news: Every challenge employees face is an opportunity for employers to gain a leg up on their competition for talent. Easing the stresses surrounding childcare can be a simple yet significant way that companies can support their most talented employees, who also happen to be working parents.
How employers can ease childcare stresses for working parents
So what can your company do to help make work/life balance more obtainable for your employees? Here are three practical suggestions that are fairly simple for employers to implement but that might make a world of difference for working parents.
1) Make schedules predictable.
When a parent learns of a last-minute, late-afternoon meeting, they must scramble to find someone to pick up their son or daughter from daycare, miss a long-anticipated school or sporting event, or otherwise come up short on time promised to their families. Setting rules around scheduling meetings can help avoid this additional stress on parents.
For example, some organizations have a policy that no meetings can start before 9:30am or after 4:30pm, so parents don’t have to worry about drop-off or pick-up with daycare facilities. Allowing parents to focus on work and not worrying about running late for soccer practice makes them more productive employees.
2) Offer flexibility.
BirchBox’s VP of People and Culture, Melissa Enbar, explains that her organization offers flexibility around the hours employees work and the location they work from.
Nowadays most jobs can be effectively performed from home or another location. This is a luxury that makes sense for working parents — and it’s an opportunity for companies to offer an extra benefit for employees who want or need to set their schedules around their families.
3) Aid in childcare options.
Whether your company offers on-site care or not, you can still help ease the stress of finding reliable and affordable childcare for your employees.
A good starting point is creating resources for new parents beginning their childcare search. This can be as simple as posting a list of childcare facilities recommended by other employees or as in depth as offering backup childcare options for emergency situations. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, for example, offers a reduced rate for six days of emergency care at home through Care.com, plus access to a backup child care center, according to one employee.
Let’s face it, securing a safe, nurturing childcare option is a challenge for all working parents. When they are plagued by related stresses — such as an unforeseen late meeting, illness, or other everyday concern — parents aren’t able to give their full attention to their job. This comes at a cost to the employee and ultimately, the business.
There are things you, as an employer, can do to make working for your company more appealing to parents. Helping employees navigate childcare stresses will be benefit not only the individual, but the company as well, in terms of employee retention. After all, a flexible-hours or no-4 p.m.-meetings policy may be the differentiator that keeps your talent working for you rather than your competitors.
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