I noticed something unusual while attending a meeting at the Google offices in Cambridge, MA. Dogs and babies. Babies and dogs. It was a good indicator that this workplace would rate highly as a family friendly workplace.
What makes a workplace family friendly?
Family friendly workplaces have policies, benefits and supportive environments that address the needs of families. Policies may include flexible work schedules and paid family leave options. Benefits may include health care for the family, pre-natal and childbirth benefits, and child care or backup child care services. Supportive environments may include lactation rooms and onsite child care.
Why employers need to care?
The demographics of today’s workforce are driving the need for family friendly workplaces. A report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston cited Bureau of Labor Statistics data that shows most children live in families without a stay-at-home parent: both parents are employed in 62 percent of married-couple families and 73 percent of single mothers are employed.
A Gallup Business Journal study found that millennial turnover costs the US economy $30.5 billion annually. Other research indicates that millennials care more about benefits and perks than baby boomers and GenXers. According to the Work Institute Retention Report, employers that do not actively pay attention to their workers’ needs to take care of themselves and their families will see turnover.
Furthermore, employers may not have a choice. According to the Center for Work and Family at Boston College, the US continues to be the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid leave for new mothers as a matter of national policy. The good news is there is progress at the state level. Increasingly, employers will be mandated to offer paid family medical leave (PFML) benefits to employees. Currently five states have legislated this benefit, but some don’t take effect until 2020.
Where to start?
Making a commitment and investing in addressing the needs of working parents is a first step. Begin by understanding the interests and needs of your employees. This can be accomplished by collecting both quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (focus groups) data. With this data in hand, you can implement family friendly workplace policies and benefits and create a supportive environment. Look to organizations such as the Family Friendly Workplace Institute for resources. Feel like you are already doing a great job? Congratulations. Perhaps you can get certified as a family friendly workplace for those efforts.
I hope I continue to see babies and dogs in the workplace. It shows me that the employer is caring for the needs of their employees and their families.