I’ve been a working mom for a mere four years; however, I think I’ve been doing this long enough to look around and see that … well … some large corporations could do a thing or two to ensure the undying love and loyalty of their working mom employees. Besides, I’m a firm believer that an happy and loyal employee is a productive employee. So, in an attempt to "help a corporation out" (and with apologies to David Letterman), I thought I’d list, in my opinion, the Top Five Things Companies Can Do to Make Their Employee-Moms* Love Them:
Number 5: No Time Clocks
I think there’s an argument which states that, in most instances, as long as the work gets completed on time, why should it matter what hours an employee performs her job? Often, being a stickler in requiring employees to punch a time clock is a classic example of form-over-substance: there is the implication that a company values full desks between the hours of eight and five more than it does maximizing the productivity of its employees. I guarantee that if a conscientious employee feels like her employer will be flexible with her working hours, she’ll likewise bend over backwards to ensure that her work is of the highest quality.
Number 4: Provide the tools to work away from home
Related to Number 5, a corporation that provides its employees with the tools to work remotely will — surprise! — end up with employees willing to work remotely. This means that instead of desktops, the company provides laptops. Mobile phones. BlackBerrys (or as I like to call them Crackberrys, because seriously, checking e-mail on those things can become obsessive). By giving an employee these types of gadgets, it’s unlikely she will get resentful about having to stay at the office until all hours of the night if she knows she can log off, go home and have a break with her family, and then log back on later when she’s refreshed, and ready to tackle her work anew. And while I don’t have any statistics to back it up, I’m willing to bet my next paycheck that in general, people who have laptops and PDAs for accessing email away from the office are far more likely to work more than 40 hours a week than those who don’t.
Number 3: Encourage family-friendly activities
This one is relatively easy: simply spend a little time and energy ensuring that one or more of the morale-building activities planned for the employee-base include an element designed for family. For example, when planning the family picnic, the company can reserve an extra $100 for a bouncy castle. Or a clown. Or a face-painting fairy. Something which lets its employees know that management understands that the personnel have lives outside of their cubicles — and that management appreciates the sacrifices the employees and their families make to ensure the corporation is successful. One of my favourite family parties: at a previous employer, Santa Claus would show up at four o’clock one Friday near the end of the year. Parents would purchase a present for their kids to place under the lobby tree (with their names clearly marked the gift), and on that designated Friday, parents could go home early to pick up their children, and Santa (often the company CEO in disguise) would hand out the gifts. Other than the punch and cookies provided for the employees and their kids, there really wasn’t much more to the cost of the party — but the employees (both those with children and those without) appreciated the effort.
Number 2: Provide Onsite Day Care
This sounds complicated, but it’s actually simpler than it sounds: it merely requires a company to lease out unused floor space to an independent (and reputable) day-care company. Granted, this is something more easily done by a larger corporation than a small company, but if you think about it, it’s brilliant: it allows a company to collect rent for otherwise unused space, and the day care provider would be able to work directly with the employee-parents (and others in the neighbourhood, if appropriate) to provide their services to their kids. The result is employees who can easily spend their lunchtimes with their kids if they so desire, feel more appreciated by the management, and — voila — be more productive in the hours they’re at the office.
And finally, the Number 1 Thing Companies Can Do to Make Their Employee-Moms Love Them:
Provide Maternity Leave for All Moms .
I remember once, when at a previous employer, I had a meeting with a woman who seemed really distracted. "Is everything okay?" I asked. "Well, my baby was born yesterday," she replied.
I looked at her, confused. She explained:
"We used a surrogate."
"Why are you even here?" I asked, aghast. She responded, "Our company doesn’t give maternity leave unless you actually give birth to the baby. I had to fly my mother in to stay with our newborn so I could come to work."
It turns out that our employer wasn’t unusual: many companies in the United States view maternity leave as "short term disability," and so, the reasoning goes, if a woman doesn’t actually give birth, she’s not "disabled," and therefore can immediately go back to work. This necessarily means that for women like my friend who used a surrogate, or women like me, who adopted, for those first crucial weeks of motherhood, new moms find themselves unable to spend time with their children. Of course, the Family Medical Leave Act does help — but remember, leave provided under this act is without pay.
The thing is, I have to believe that the number of women who become mothers via surrogacy or adoption represents a relatively small percentage of the women who become parents at all. Would it really cost a company that much more to provide every new mother (or father) six to eight weeks leave with pay? I suspect in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t — and it’s pretty unlikely that women or men would "abuse the system" and become parents just to get 6 to 8 weeks off. Corporations who give their employees time to enjoy their new families, I believe, would be far more likely to foster loyalty within their employees, as opposed to resentment, which can, of course, eventually lead to attrition.
Now I’m not a CEO, nor have I ever managed a large corporation. Further, I realize that not all of the ideas above would work for everyone — some people have to work core hours, for example, and can’t work flex time; in addition, Santa showing up at year-end might be valued by people who celebrate Christmas, but not necessarily by those who don’t. Still, it just seems to me it’s about creating a corporate culture that values family life, and I fully admit there are lots of other ideas out there which might help create this culture that I haven’t mentioned here. Furthermore, I think the costs that might be represented by the ideas above would pale in comparison to the costs a company would experience in managing attrition from employees who are unhappy with their work environment.
What do you think? Do you think these tips make sense, or am I naive? What else would you do to you help ensure that employee-parents remain happy and loyal to the company?
* and Employee-Dads. Because let’s face it, there’s really no reason that the tips above wouldn’t be appreciated by everyone .