5 Workplace Practices That Support Modern Families

Companies—large and small—are transforming the way they support moms, dads, and caretakers. Recent trends in policy allow employers to be allies to parents as they navigate together the complicated balance between professional and personal demands. Employers are broadening their support for employees and encouraging deeper loyalty by considering the following cultural changes in the workplace.

Update your language

Thoughtful workplaces are rewriting their parental leave policies to address “primary” and “secondary” caretakers, and getting rid of the oversimplified categories of “moms” and “dads.” This change is timely as 40% of households now have a woman as the sole or primary source of family income and an increasing number of same-sex couples are adopting and having children. By choosing company-wide adopted language that reflects modern families, employers can demonstrate their respect for all employees, and employees can take comfort knowing that their employer is tuned in to and supportive of current trends in family life.

Be flexible

Now that more workplaces are offering both parents some form of leave, they’re also letting families decide how to take that leave. It’s becoming common for “primary” caretakers to take a longer leave immediately after the arrival of a new child, while “secondary” caretakers can opt to take their (shorter) leave at some point within the first six to twelve months of their baby’s life. Some parents are electing to take their leaves in succession instead of taking them simultaneously. Not only does this flexible leave address some of the pain points associated with child care logistics and costs, but it also shows employees that their employers trust them to decide what’s best for their family—enriching their commitment and connection to their workplace.

Pay your employees while they’re out

Despite careful budgeting, a new child is expensive. In 33 states and Washington, D.C., infant care costs more than college. With a few exceptions, employers are not required to pay employees for leave related to the birth of a child, but an increasing number of employers are paying their employees while they’re out on leave. Innovative employers are developing attractive policies like paid leave for the week prior to an employee’s due date or a modest pay increase for the duration of their employee’s parental leave. This kind of financial support from an employer makes it infinitely easier for an employee to absorb the myriad new costs—particularly the costs of childcare—associated with their newest family member. It can also make it simpler for an employee to return to work and to want to return to work because they feel valued and supported during a life transition. For employers, these smart investments can retain valuable talent.

Moderate the return to work

Twelve weeks with a new bundle of joy passes by at lightning speed. Because a new baby brings change, many employees can now develop “return plans” that enable individuals to come back to the office in a manner that sets up everyone for success. Whether it means reallocating an employee’s vacation time or sick days to extend leave, or temporarily adopting a reduced (e.g., 80%) work schedule, many employees are grateful for the opportunity to ease back into their work lives at what feels like a physically and emotionally manageable pace for them.

Utilize technology

Technology has rendered the traditional office setting nearly irrelevant; most people can work anytime, anywhere. For parents, new and veteran, this is invaluable. Many employers are making the investment in technologies that their employees need in order to work more effectively from home. Portable devices such as laptops and iPads help, but team communication tools such as Slack and cloud-based platforms such as Google Drive or Box allow employees to make their home office a place of true productivity.

In addition to technologies to help create a more flexible work environment, the introduction of mobile health benefits allows employers to meet their employees where they are already: on their mobile phones. For example, Ovia Health helps your pregnant employees track and learn about their pregnancies right on their mobile devices. No matter where they are working, they’re educating themselves about their health, baby’s health, and your benefits.

So, when parents need to be away from the office for good reason (e.g., a child’s doctor appointment, a parent-teacher conference), they take comfort knowing that their employer has given them the tools to do it all.

These trends suggest that employers’ and employees’ expectations are shifting. Employers are taking deliberate action to show that they understand and support their employees’ families; consequently, employees can be more engaged and productive when they know their employer is playing on their team.

Are you looking to support the families in your organization? Let Ovia Health help.

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This post was written by Ovia Health’s contributing author, Emily Madden.