Tag Archives: family

Why Should Employers Care About Families?

Ethical AND financially viable? So why aren’t more organisations taking the measures to support working families?

caring for families
Photo by Natalya Zaritskaya on Unsplash

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The poet Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better”. But despite everything we know about the tangible and intangible benefits of taking care of our working families, collectively, we American business leaders provide paid family leave to just 11 per cent of U.S. workers.

Up to 35 per cent of working women in the United States who give birth never return to their jobs. And those who do return to work after the birth of a child find an unsupportive environment lacking on-site child care, lactation programmes, and paid medical leave.

Given these realities, we don’t have to scratch our heads and wonder why there is an alarming lack of women in positions of leadership, boardrooms, and public office. Women will never be able to effectively “lean in” without the proper economic, social, and community support for the most critical work of all: raising the next generation.

Supporting Families Makes Financial Sense

And the good news for skeptical business leaders? Supporting our working families with onsite child-care isn’t just the ethical thing to do (which, frankly, should be all we need if we are to be responsible leaders), it will also balance out financially.

At Patagonia, we’ve operated an onsite child development center at our headquarters in Ventura, Calif., for 33 years. For our founders, it just seemed like the right thing to do back when the company was just starting out. And our employees, in turn, give more to the company because it acts as a partner in life, not an obstacle.

As Patagonia has grown significantly, especially in recent years, our on-site child care programme has continued to play a major role in driving our success. We enjoy the sound of kids playing around our campus, and math nets out, too – making my decision last year to expand on-site child care to our 400-employee distribution center in Reno, Nevada, a no brainer.

As Patagonia’s chief executive, here’s how I think about it:

Tax Benefits – Costs Recouped: 50 per cent

The federal government recognises the value of on-site child care to both working parents and the economy. It grants a qualified child care program a yearly tax credit of $150,000.

In addition, the government allows a company to deduct 35 per cent of its unrecovered costs from its corporate tax bite.

Employee Retention – Costs Recouped: 30 per cent

Turnover is expensive – including lost productivity while the position is vacant, plus recruitment, relocation, and training time. This can range from 35 per cent of annual salary for a non-managerial employee, to 125 per cent of salary for a manager. And to a couple of years’ pay for a director or vice president.

At Patagonia, for the past five years, we’ve seen 100 per cent of mums return to work after maternity leave. The availability of on-site child care remains important for allowing mothers to breast-feed infants on demand.

For the past five years, our turnover rate for parents who have children in the program has run 25 per cent less than for our general employee population.

Employee Engagement – Costs Recouped: 11 per cent

The term engagement describes how an employee feels about his or her job and employer. Higher engagement creates higher levels of customer satisfaction and business performance. Studies indicate that when parents have access to high-quality, on-site child care at work, they are more engaged – even more so than colleagues as a whole. This increased engagement means the company does better financially.

Bottom Line – Costs Recouped: 91 per cent

In sum, we estimate that we recover 91 per cent of our calculable costs annually. We’re not alone. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., has estimated returns of 115 per cent for its child-care programme.

And global business consultant KPMG found that its clients with onsite child-care earned a return on investment (ROI) of 125 per cent.

Of course, this quantifiable picture leaves out the obvious intangible benefits of providing on-site child care.

  • more women in management (at Patagonia, women make up 50 per cent of our workforce, including 50 per cent of upper management positions);
  • greater employee loyalty;
  • stronger workplace culture; and more.

If we could quantify these positive impacts, an overall ROI of 115-125 per cent on our own programme wouldn’t surprise me.

I’ve been fortunate to see these benefits firsthand, and I strongly believe the business community should feel confident in taking the leap and adopting onsite child-care and other policies that support working families. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because your business will find greater financial success too.

To help share our story, Patagonia has just published a new book, called “Family Business,” designed to help employers, child development practitioners and others take advantage of everything we’ve learned over 33 years.

I encourage you to check it out. Or follow up with a wide variety of additional resources available  to understand the benefits of on-site child care.

Rose Marcario is the CEO of Patagonia. This article was orginally published on LinkedIn.

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Working Parents: Stop Hiding Your Children at Work

Supercharging my career and nurturing my family at the same time has always been a struggle for me… until I brought my children out of the closet and into the workplace.

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Last week,  Professor Robert E Kelly and his two mischievous children starred in one of the funniest viral videos of all time. The whole world laughed when, in the middle of a live BBC interview, Professor Kelly’s children burst in to the room and hilariously upstaged him.

If the clip has, by some miracle, passed you by, here it is in all of its side-splitting glory:

Yes, it’s pretty funny. But let’s face it, how many times have you closed the door on your children, locked them away in a (metaphorical) closet or pushed them away when you had to perform your professional duties.

In reality, we’re constantly keeping our families behind closed doors so we can get on with our working lives. For years I have felt the need to downplay my family commitments in order to be seen as a serious career professional.

My stress levels were continually going through the roof. I was gliding over the surface with style at work, but paddling like a crazy duck under the waterline in an attempt to manage all the demands of my personal life.

But a year or so ago I decided to bring my children more visibly into my work life and it has made a big difference to me, my children…and – most importantly – those I work with.

My first foray with bringing my children to work was to take my son to Europe’s largest procurement conference, ProcureCon, Berlin. I was a speaker on a panel and thought it would be a great chance for my son to see me in action. So much for him learning about my work: he didn’t look up from his iPad once! I don’t think he learnt a squat about what I did, but at least I made the effort. Importantly, I was really touched that people were positive about my son attending the event.

One of my fellow delegates sent me this note –

“You and I met in Berlin last month at the ProcureCon Europe Conference. I admired how you were able to be real without dropping the ball on exuding leadership and kindness! But, I think that what really impressed me was that you brought your beautiful son to the conference, he was so sweet and shy! In bringing him with you, without realising it, you managed to reflect what most women go through when we have to work long hours or travel a great deal, away from our families and loved ones. There have been times that in my travels or long hours I wish I could just have my babies near me…the guilt of being dedicated to the person that makes me who I am, can be a bit heavy. But we all do, both men and women, to provide for our families, while at the same time try to get something out of the sacrifices that we may have to make. So, I sincerely thank you for bringing your son with you.”

My second foray was to take my younger son to listen to a speech I made at the Australian Embassy for Future Leaders. When I asked him about the experience afterwards, he thought about it and said, “The lemonade was great”. Another breakthrough (not)!

I know not everyone has the same flexibility as someone who runs their own company. However, as business leaders, we can do a lot to help manage the stress levels of working parents. We need to walk the talk and recognise that everyone has priorities (and not always children) that compete with work.

Here are my four ideas on how we could stop hiding our children at work and build more fluid relationships between work and home.

1.  Talk about Family

In the early days of parenthood I never spoke about my children in the workplace because I wanted to be seen as “professional”. When I first started sharing small amounts of information about my family, I realised that most of the people I worked with were parents too and could totally relate to my plight. In the right circumstances, sharing family stories has actually helped me build business relationships.

2. Take your children to work 

I have lived through so many tough days when I felt I really had to be in two places at once.  For example, having a “career-changing” meeting planned (luckily these are few and far between and the skill is in knowing which meetings really count) and, just as I was about to get started, receiving a compelling, competing call for my attention,  from a family member. These were the times when my stress levels reached an all time high and I started to think that the only solution was to quit my job and focus solely on family.

Working from home is widely accepted on these types of days, but if you were still wanting to fulfill your work obligations for just one or two hours, wouldn’t it be great if we were “allowed” to bring our family into the office?? I can hear the pressure valve release at the mere thought of it!

3. Put children in the picture 

We need more imagery of children in the places where we are building our careers. Perhaps you’ve seen the image that went viral of a US Professor who picked up and carried a crying baby during a lecture? He calmed the child, allowing the class to continue and, most importantly, the parent to complete the class.

Some of the most popular photos of outgoing US President, Barack Obama, have been with children within the White House, which is his normal place of work. We need to see more child-friendly work imagery.

4.    Remember – Everyone has priorities 

Having said all of this, working parents need to be cognisant that we aren’t the only people in the universe with priorities competing with our work. Whether you’re a parent of one, four or ten children (heaven forbid!) or even if you don’t have children, everyone struggles at times to manage their personal and professional lives in the best, and most healthy, way possible.

What we can do, as people who understand these struggles, is to be understanding of every individual, make accommodations where possible and offer flexible working environments. That way, we’ll get the most out of our happy, stress-free team!

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