In 2003, Congress declared October National Work and Family Month. According to Former President Barack Obama’s official White House statement in 2010, “National Work and Family Month serves as a reminder to all of us, especially working caregivers, their families, and their employers, that while we have made great strides as a nation to adopt more flexible policies in the workplace, there’s more we can do.”
Yes, as a nation, we’ve come a long way and that’s worth celebrating. Less than 100 years ago, during World War II, women began to flood into the workforce, increasing from 27 percent of the working population to 37 percent in just five years, meaning one in four women were working outside the home for the first time. Today, 54 percent of the U.S. workforce are women, showing the great strides we’ve made in a relatively short amount of time.
There’s More We Can Do
But, October is off to a rough start. From natural disasters in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico, to the mass shootings in Las Vegas, now more than ever is the time for employers to remember the humanity their companies were built to serve. This means providing a flexible work environment that understands the needs of parents and their growing families.
1. Provide Better Policies
This is the bare minimum of what companies can do to provide a flexible work environment for employees. While the Family and Medical Leave Act was implemented in 1993, the U.S. still falls way behind when it comes to providing mandatory paternity leave. The first thing an employer should do is provide policies that protect their employees against discrimination and encourage them to take necessary time away when starting their families.
2. Walk the Talk
Plenty of companies boast of their workplace flexibility, but few are actually practicing what they preach. We hear of countless employers providing “unlimited paid time-off” but the reality is without clear expectations or good management, employees are left with guilt and misunderstanding, and often take less days off than before. When thinking about expectations, this seems to incite negative connotations for many of us. But expectations can also mean encouraging an employee to stay home when they’re not feeling well or take a few days off when a big project wraps up. At PerkSpot, we are lucky to have implemented this policy with great success, but not without constant work and re-evaluation. It works because the managers provide clear expectations of when to take time off and when we should be in the office. Plus, they model the benefits by taking off for week-long family vacations or much-needed downtime.
3. Lead by Example
This brings us to our next point. No company policy in and of itself is going to solve problems. That’s where it’s important to hire and train effective managers who not only implement policies, but who can model this behavior to their team. No one feels safe to take time off when the boss is sneezing all day long in their office. Managers, take care of yourselves and take care of your team.
4. Bend the Rules
Even your most flexible policies might stand in the way, so don’t be afraid to bend a little. We’re all human and we all face circumstances out of our control. Think outside the HR box and get creative. There’s a time and a place for every rule so make sure you discuss when a situation might arise that requires a reassessment of company policies. Being flexible means being flexible… even when it comes to your policies.
What are some ways you’re celebrating National Work and Family Month? How has your company made strides to protect families inside the workplace?