The pandemic reoriented the way we all live and work, and one significant change is how we think about balancing our job, family, and health. Working parents in corporate America fought through the pandemic with kids crying in the background of the video meetings and balancing focused work with trips to the park, but many companies found out that their production didn’t suffer from their employees working where they wanted and when they wanted.
The shift in how organizations think about work coincided with a labor shortage and booming economy that have put workers in a position of power and an unprecedented uptick in women leaving the workforce. In response, employers make worker and family-friendly policies and benefits an essential part of the war for talent.
This month, the Best Place for Working Parents initiative held its national summit in Fort Worth, bringing in corporate leaders from North Texas and across the country to discuss best practices and innovative solutions, and help employers figure out how to battle the great resignation and make it possible for working families to continue their trajectory at a critical juncture for the growth of their families and careers.
The summit’s Core Benefits panel included insights from Stasha Chiles, vice president of total rewards and people operations at Match, Jena Cohen, head of human resources at the U.S. Private Bank at JP Morgan, and Ilana Hall, senior director of global benefits, payroll, and employee services at Fossil. Read on to learn five ways these leaders positively impact their coworkers and attract new ones.
- 1. Leave Support Team
Conversations around parenthood often occur during a crucial time in one’s career. They have often worked for nearly a decade, achieved some mastery and seniority, and are ready to make that next move into leadership or another advancement. With that in mind, many potential parents (women especially) are nervous about their ability to maintain their career trajectory while starting a family. In response to this worry, U.S. Private Bank JP Morgan Chase created the Leave Support Team, a small group within the company to help that employee navigate the process ahead of them.
They help the employee submit the proper forms and understand the company’s benefits. Additionally, the bank provides a team to take over clients’ duties while the new parent is gone, giving them peace of mind about their career trajectory while not dropping the ball with clients.
“Most women who are taking parental leave are doing so as their careers are on the rise, promotion trajectories on the rise, compensation is on the rise, and it feels like the exact wrong time to be taking this important step in life,” Cohen says. “Our aim with this program is to enhance mid-career female attraction and retention.”
- 2. Parent Mentor
At JP Morgan’s private bank, new mothers are connected with a parent mentor within the company who can share insights about becoming and being a parent with the company. The mentor also lets the employee know the new parent gets a high-priced vibrating bassinet from the company.
This mentor can be an invaluable resource throughout pregnancy and as the employee returns to work. The two can share parenting resources, places to take their kids, and how best to navigate balancing work and family at the company. Many companies provide a mentor or buddy when a new employee is hired at a company, but having a child while working might be an even more complex and vital transition. Cohen says that the new moms who are given a mentor often become mentors themselves.
- 3. Fade Back to Work
On top of getting paid full salary for six weeks and 12 additional weeks of leave with short-term disability payments, Fossil has another plan to allow new parents to transition smoothly back to work. After spending every waking hour with their child, it can be a stark change to drop the baby off with childcare and spend all day at work. Some mothers might welcome the respite, but others might want to ease back to work.
At Fossil, the company allows for six to eight weeks where a parent can come partially back to work, with reduced hours and more remote work or the ability to bring their baby to work if they choose. It often begins at just five to ten hours at the office for the first week and ramps up from there. This allows new mothers not to be overwhelmed with the surge of work duties while slowly transitioning their child to bond with a new caregiver.
“This plan has been very successful for our employees,” Hall says. “They are able to work and help their families because they are not overwhelmed.”
- 4. Focus Fridays
Happy employees are often more productive employees. The structure of the five-day workweek is becoming more antiquated as we become more efficient. The idea of a traditional workday or workweek dissolves into a more logical approach, where employees make sure their work is done when it needs to be done. Management allows them to work when and where they see fit. Plenty of data says that a four-day workweek actually improves productivity.
At Fossil, the company has “Focus Fridays,” which allows corporate employees time to catch up on work-related things without any meetings, plan an activity with your team, or volunteer. During the summer, Fossil corporate employees get to take half the day off to spend time with their families. They are not to take the day off.It is quite a shift in the way the company thinks about the work week, but today’s work culture calls for bold moves that can be win-win for the company and employees alike. “We want to promote benefits for parents to help them be more in contact with their kids,” Hall says.
- 5. Family Funding
In addition to deciding when to start a family, modern technology has given parents more options about how to start a family. Options like adoption, surrogacy, in-vitro fertilization, and other options are critical to parents who cannot have children on their own.
In addition to the medical benefits at Match, the company has partnered with a vendor called Carrot that provides employers fertility support and helps navigate the many different family forming options available. The company offers $10,000 of funding via Carrot for employees looking to build their families that can be used on fertility preservation, surrogacy, IVF, and adoption. The company has seen the program grow 450 percent in the last year.
“We take a holistic approach and start at the beginning,” Chiles says. “We know that our employees want flexibility. They want to be able to decide when and how they start a family.”