Maternity and paternity leave policies in the United States leave something to be desired.
That’s usually bad news for parents, but it can be good news for you if your company offers competitive parental time-off policies. Good leave policies, like ones with paid time off, set your company apart in a big way — and so does offering continued family-friendly benefits that extend beyond good parental leave.
Excellent parental leave policies can get employees to come to a workplace; creating a parent-friendly environment that actively strives for a good work-life balance can get them to stay.
Making the workplace parent-friendly
Turning your workplace into a parent-friendly environment is easier said than done. But it can be accomplished with these three steps.
How to create a parent-friendly workplace:
Explore flexible work hours
Create empathetic company culture
Schedule work activities during work
Let's break each of these down further so you know exactly how to implement these strategies so your workplace can stand out from the rest.
1. Explore flexible scheduling and work hours
Toddlers don’t stop existing from nine to five, teens need rides after school, and most daycare services require sick children to stay home. That’s why the best way to help parents at your workplace is allowing them to work a flexible schedule.
Of course, not all jobs were made for flexible hours—and that’s okay! If your bakery employees have to be at work between five and ten in the morning, communicate those expectations up front so prospective employees can make informed decisions about where to work.
But if you run a small marketing business or a coffee franchise, incorporating policies like these can be the perfect way to help parents know you care about their work-life balance:
Another option is to make it easier for parents to bring their child to work if a babysitter falls through or a school holiday doesn’t correspond with taking a day off from work. Having a child around the office can be distracting to other employees, so it’s fair to set certain boundaries. Still, you can create a child-friendly workspace by giving parents with infants an office to themselves for a day or offering on-site child care.
Whatever policies you end up incorporating, remember one key thing: when you ask parents to choose between their work and family lives, they will choose their children. This means if a more flexible work opportunity comes up with another company, they’ll take it.
2. Create a transparent, empathetic culture
You might have work policies in place to support parents, including having a nursing room on-site or creating a solid work-from-home policy. But knowing you have permission to work flexible hours and actually feeling like you can do it is another issue entirely.
For example, if your company has a room for nursing mothers, your nursing employees should know they’re entitled to use it as needed during the workday without being penalized. But having a designated room and telling employees they can stick to their pumping and feeding schedule (which means they can turn down the invite if a manager schedules a meeting during designated feeding time) are two separate actions.
Clarifying to your whole company how employees can use benefits, and its company culture, will help everyone feel more comfortable and appreciate having them in place, including employees without children who plan to raise them in the future.
While you should set an expectation that your employees clearly and honestly communicate their needs, you should also go out of your way to take the burden off of parents to stand up for themselves. Demonstrate flexibility and empathy from the top down and overemphasize that parents won’t take a career hit for speaking up about their needs.
3. Schedule work activities during work
Parents don’t always have the same schedule flexibility as other employees. They can’t easily rearrange their schedules to accommodate happy-hour drinks or weekend conferences.
Maybe this doesn’t seem like much of a problem — drinks after work are hardly a mandatory work experience. But socializing outside of work hours is still a work experience, and many employees worry that missing one, even to take care of their child, could harm their career.
Peter Cappelli, a Professor of management at Wharton, notes: “It's easy to say that those who don't want to come don't have to, but we all know that there are pressures that compel us to attend. For example: it's at the boss's house and she's clearly going to notice who isn't there.”
Another article agrees. In fact, it explicitly recommends that employees getting drinks after work see it as “a networking opportunity” and “remain consistently focused on the real reason [they’re] there: to network. Drinking is the backdrop to that activity.”
The solution is simple: schedule social events during work hours. Doing so removes the pressure employees feel to attend events they don’t have time for while still allowing for networking and team building.
Making the three practices above part of your company’s policies isn’t just helpful for caregivers. They’re helpful for each of your employees, regardless of whether or not they have children, which is why implementing the practices above and advertising them as part of your company culture can give you a competitive edge in your field.
Most importantly, doing so helps every employee at your company feel valued — and that’s a culture worth fighting for.
If you're a Human Resources professional looking for even more advice, check out this complete guide to HR, brought to you by G2.
Kylie McQuarrie has five years of experience writing for and about small businesses, most recently on Business.org. When not writing, she reads voraciously, acts as a sofa for her chaotic cat, and meticulously curates Apple Music playlists.