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  • Glenn Davila

Innovative employee benefits that support working parents today

Just because employers have implemented return-to-work policies and cracked down on remote and hybrid work, that doesn't mean working parents are ready or able to say goodbye to the flexibility that made their lives more manageable. 

While the pandemic was certainly not easy for working parents, it did open up a new way of juggling work and home responsibilities, often for the better. Working parents can't be forgotten as employers push to return to "normal." Fortunately, some top employers are still implementing inclusive policies and benefits that take into account the experiences of working parents today. 

At accounting firm Optima Office, CEO Jennifer Barnes created a formal HR policy that allows employees to bring their children into the office when the need arises. She herself often brings her toddler son into work with her, and as long as employees don't take advantage of the flexibility, it's a win-win for everyone. 

"Life happens and there's a lot of things you just can't plan on," Barnes says. "When I started my first company, I said, I want to create a place where I would want to work. That means having flexibility and being kind and empathetic to your employees and treating them like humans." 

While Optima's policy is perfect for those tricky times when parents need a few extra hours of coverage, finding a more stable child care option has reached a crisis point for millions of parents. From a lack of access due to child care worker shortages and the end of pandemic-era funding, to the prohibitive cost of full-time care, employees are struggling to find solutions that work. 

Yet employers can offer supportive solutions to help parents navigate these challenging road blocks: Employer caregiving benefit platform Cariloop, for example, provides care coaches who specialize in guiding members through their caregiving journey. To round out access to quality child care, they recently partnered with UrbanSitter, a platform that brings together community-based provider listings and client reviews to help parents make confident decisions about the best care option for their children. 

If you want to know what will help working parents the most, it's important to ask them directly. The University of Phoenix and Motherly, a content platform for moms, released their 2023 Mothers Overcome More report, or the M.O.M, highlighting how low-income mothers (those who earn below what they would need to meet basics needs like child care and housing in their state) faced the highest amount of adversity for the lowest payoff. 

"To boil it down, there are four key components missing in workplaces where we find our lower-income moms: Accessible child care, paid time off, the recognition of skills acquired through motherhood and opportunities to build one's skills," says Ruth Veloria, chief strategy officer at the University of Phoenix. "If employers put those components together, they can set moms up for success."

If you're still committed to the RTO mandate you've established, be sure to review it to make sure it's inclusive for families. These solutions can include specific flexible days where employees can work from 7-to-3 rather than 9-to-5 in order to handle some of their caregiving responsibilities. Another option is to let employees choose which days of the week they come into the office. If they can't be flexible, employers could add concierge services to their benefit offerings in order to offload some of those daytime tasks stealing parents' attention at work.

"Employers should be taking the time to talk to the employees and get their opinions on what it is they want, because a return-to-work mandate should look different from organization to organization," says Jessica Larsen, senior HR specialist at workplace solutions company Insperity. "There are ways to roll out a return to the office while still keeping that flexibility for employees." 

Source: EBN

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