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How to Create a Family-Friendly Work Environment

Is your company talking about the working parent problem? Creating a family-friendly work environment is becoming increasingly important for recruiting and retention as the number of working parents grows. And in a competitive hiring environment, family-friendliness could be the edge to secure your talent.

The age 25-to-54 workforce in the U.S. is 102 million people, of which 52 million are working parents. Today, families are three times as likely to be dual-working parents, or single working parents, than to have a dedicated at-home parent. There are more working parents than ever, and they’re looking for a place that supports their family’s needs.

A family friendly work environment is important for all parents, not just women. Women tend to carry more of the burden of child-rearing, and are more likely to leave jobs behind to take care of children. However, this is slowly shifting, with more stay-at-home fathers and dual working parents. Any family friendly policy you have must be catered to all parents, not just mothers.

How to Create a Family-Friendly Environment

One of the biggest benefits working parents look for is flexibility. The ability to work with management to create a reduced or flex schedule can make all the difference for balancing their work and parental duties. Many working parents don’t have anyone else to rely on for picking up kids from school, or need to be there in case of an emergency. Their child’s schedule will be an important factor in their career decisions.

Work-life balance is a priority for working parents, and trumps every other career-deciding factor, even pay. But ensuring that your employees can create a work-life balance will benefit everyone at your company.

Strong parental leave is crucial for creating a family-friendly working environment. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires 12 weeks of maternity leave, but only for mothers of newly born or adopted children in companies larger than 50 people. This is below the 16 week minimum recommended by the World Health Organization. Unfortunately, in the past 20 years there has been no increase in the number of women to use maternity leave.

The U.S. is far behind other countries on parental leave, and while there are conversations about the necessity for change, it doesn’t look like changes in law will be coming soon. That means it's up to companies to enact better change to support and retain their working parents. Parental leave should be extended, and be offered to every parent, not just mothers.

Perhaps your company can go above and beyond by offering childcare services. Rethink schedules through a parenting lens. If you have team-building opportunities, make sure that they are at times a parent can attend, not just in the evening.

Improving the Work Culture

Have open communication and get feedback from your working parents. They may have needs that you haven’t yet considered, and bringing important conversations into the daylight is crucial for improving the workplace community.

Any policy needs to work hand in hand with the workplace culture. Even if you have parental leave or scheduling flexibility, parents may not take those opportunities if they get push back from other employees. No one should be shamed for using time off or other policies intended to improve work-life balance.

For a competitive edge in recruiting, be sure to publish your working parent goals and policies. This a great way to stand out from the crowd, especially as working parents may be able to fill your talent-gap and difficult-to-hire positions.

A family friendly work environment will entice other candidates as well. How you treat working parents reflects on how you treat all employees. You likely have younger workers who want to become parents down the road, and if your current parents have to leave their job, prospective parents may seek to further their careers elsewhere.

You want all your employees to be able to do the best job they can. That includes all parents, and anyone who may need accommodations to perform at the top of their abilities. Start the conversation today about improving family-friendliness at your company.

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