Creating A True Family Friendly Work Environment



Companies develop family-friendly policies and lactation programs because they know it helps retain employees and improves the company’s bottom line. At your company, benefits and policies for family and lactation support may have been developed and deployed, however the actual employee working environment may not have changed. To truly make a family-friendly environment, both managers and employees need to be supportive toward their co-workers who are new parents. Take a look at the corporate culture of your business through the eyes of a new parent. If employees are reluctant to take family leave or approved time-off because they are worried about resentment from their peers or having their time off held against them, then it is not truly a family-friendly environment. If the culture makes a parent feel guilty working from home or needing to reschedule a meeting due to their child being sick, then that environment is not family-friendly either. Let’s look at how a company’s culture can be family-friendly!

  • Respect work and family boundaries

Companies may say they have flexibility in their workplace, but if an employee’s co-workers or managers give funny looks or comments when they need to leave early on certain days to pick up children or a sick child, then it’s not a culture that truly has flexibility. Whether it’s a mother who needs to leave for a pumping session, or a dad who need to leave for his child’s doctor appointment that can’t be moved, managers and co-workers need to respect family commitments and responsibilities in their employee’s lives. Having managers who set boundaries to take care of their own families and respect their employees’ family commitments lead by example and sets the right tone for the corporate culture.

  • Adjust plans and schedules

Meetings and team events need to respect employees with families, who often cannot attend special events or meetings after normal business hours because they need to be with their children. Parents with children in daycare usually do not have flexibility in their schedules because pick-up times can be strict and can include extra charges for late pick-ups. To create an environment that supports families, schedule meetings and team events during business hours. If possible avoid early morning or late afternoon meetings.

Instead of having a group dinner or happy-hour, consider a team lunch or daytime event so employees with families can attend. With many companies doing business with countries in other time zones, some employees may find it difficult to attend night meetings because they need to look after their children at home. If an evening or night meeting needs to be scheduled, be considerate of employees with children. Allowing them to take conference calls from home in multi-time zone situations can relieve some of this stress. Give them priority in choosing a meeting time or let them join or leave early so they can get their child to bed.

  • Open employee communication

Encourage communication with managers and employees to get feedback on how the company’s family policies are working. Managers should understand that work is only a part of their employees’ life and listen how they are trying to juggle both work and family. Keeping communication open and free from any fear of distrust or retaliation is key to creating a positive family-friendly workplace. A workplace that values employee input makes it easier to get that feedback on what corporate programs are working and what areas need attention. It is important for a company to regularly receive feedback from employees, whether it be through surveys, focus-groups, or one-on-one sessions. Feedback should include asking employees how their managers are being supportive or what areas they need to improve.

While it’s important to collect feedback, it is equally important to review it and follow-up on any areas where employees have concerns. Areas where improvements are needed should be addressed back to the employees so they know the company does value their inputs. Otherwise it gives the impression that the company is not genuine in improving the culture which can affect morale.

  • Create a community

Creating a community or employee resource group for parents in your company gives employees support as well as letting them be themselves at work. Companies can easily form parent and mother’s rooms groups through message boards, Slack, or meetups. It helps the company show their support for families while helping parents connect to each other.

Your company may provide free meals, game rooms, transportation, and a host of other benefits. But to a parent, those benefits may not matter. To help recruit and retain great talent in your company, ensure that your corporate culture truly is family-friendly. To learn more on ways to make your company more family-friendly, reach out to our Healthy Horizons Corporate Services.

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