Work/life balance is difficult to manage at a startup. Employees work long hours and manage multiple job responsibilities. For parents, this also means making the difficult decision between spending time at home or in the office.
“I quit my last startup and became a stay-at-home dad because I couldn’t juggle well the stress of child care and work,” Anand Iyer, now the co-founder and CEO of Trusted, in San Francisco, told me recently by email.
Unfortunately, Iyer’s situation is not unique. A recent report from the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children surveyed 257 employees in Louisiana. It found that 40.8 percent of parents surveyed had missed work in the past three months due to child-care issues. What’s more, 32.9 percent had been late to work at some point, and 42.4 percent had had to leave work early for the same reasons.
As a result, companies — and the economy — are suffering.
“With quality care, parents can work and companies become more prosperous, which in turn drives our economy,” Al Zink, senior vice president of human resources at Care.com in Waltham, Mass., told me. “As it stands now, our patchwork care infrastructure is failing us all.”
As the definition of “parenthood” continues to change, organizations are beginning to see this isn’t an issue only women face.
“There are more people having children on their own rather than waiting for marriage or partnership,” said Sabrina Mallick Peterson, co-founder and CEO of Pure Growth Organic in New York, via email. “There are families with two dads and two moms, and all of them love their children.”
Child care, she went on to say, isn’t a gender issue anymore. And to make progress, it’s time to stop thinking it is. Fortunately, however, some entrepreneurs are stepping up to help employees.
Here’s what seven organizations are doing to promote work/life for employees who are parents:
Care.com: network of caregivers. Headquarters: Waltham, Mass.
As any parent knows, things don’t always go according to plan. Emergencies happen, making it difficult to find last-minute child care. When Jackson Wilkinson, senior director of community platforms and his wife, a pediatric doctor, were called cross-country, they were worried about who would care for their son.
Thanks to Care.com’s in-center back-up child care, the couple was able to find a center close to where they were staying. “Given his wife’s responsibilities, if she can’t work, her patients don’t get the care they need,” Zink pointed out, “and Jackson had to be there for important meetings.
“Knowing their son was at a nearby center, they were able to be present and engaged in their work without worrying about their little boy being across the country,” Zink said. Without the backup care, he said, “It’s likely at least one of them would not have been able to make the trip.”
Cisco: information technology and cyber security. Headquarters: San Francisco
On-site child care
Access to Cisco technology that allows parents to view their children on their devices throughout the day via high-resolution cameras in the classroom
Freshly cooked, nutritious meals
A subsidized emergency backup-care program
“One morning, on a day when my husband was gone before dawn and I had a day full of meetings, our nanny called in sick,” said Tara Fortier, chief of staff at Cisco, via email. “In a sheer panic, I got online and found my contact at Cisco daycare, which checked and quickly replied back that I should bring our son in, no problem.”
Having never been to the facility before, Fortier said she felt a little nervous. But after being greeted warmly at the door and given access to Cisco’s Video Surveillance Operations Manager system, she felt at ease about leaving her son for the day.
EY: assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Headquarters: London
Career and family-transitioning coaching
Backup child care
Privacy rooms and lactation counselors
Today’s Families Network membership support
The day Courtney Lazarri found out she was pregnant was also the day EY asked her to relocate to its Houston office. After returning from maternity leave, Lazarri felt overwhelmed being in a new office in a new city as a new mom.
“Career and Family Transitions was an incredible outlet for me,” she said. After meeting with a personal coach, Lazarri was able to get out her frustrations and create an action plan to keep her career and her home life on track.
Outreach: sales-engagement software. Headquarters: Seattle
“I conduct interviews for new account executive hires on a regular basis. One of the questions that they always ask me is, ‘What do you like about working for Outreach?'” said Nate Yocum, an enterprise account executive at Outreach, via email. “The parental plan always makes its way into the conversation.”
He went on to say it’s not just the plan that’s great, but what it shows about the company.
“The plan tells a story about who the founders are, and what is important to them. I truly believe that they care about me and my family, and that it is not just something they say. It is backed up by what they do.”
Palo Alto Software
Palo Alto Software: business software. Headquarters: Eugene, Oregon
Through an email interview, CEO Sabrina Parsons pointed out that the best talent can’t be won over with things like a new iPad or free lattes. However, giving them the freedom to manage their own schedule and showing respect for their families can be powerful.
And she’s seeing big results because of their kid-friendly office. One notable moment was when a single dad told her how much the relationship between him and his ex-wife had improved. Because he was able to bring his children to work and become more of a caregiver, he saw tensions ease thanks to work flexibility and management understanding.
Patagonia: outdoor-gear retailer. Headquarters: Ventura, Calif.
As a new mom, Tessa Byars, communications manager at Patagonia, still needed to travel for work. Thanks to Patagonia’s baby-travel assistance, she was able to go on work trips with her child and a caregiver.
“I have been able to continue nursing all the way through her first 16 months of life without its being a huge hassle of pumping and storing milk,” said Byars via email. “At this point, I can’t imagine what my work life and home life would be without this program, since the two are truly intertwined in the best way imaginable.”
Pure Growth Organic
Pure Growth Organic: organic snack food. Headquarters: New York
“Alex Rosenthal was our first hire, and after we made her an offer, she told us that she was pregnant,” said Peterson, the CEO at Pure Growth Organic. “And I said, ‘So, what?'”
Rosenthal was clearly surprised that her pregnancy wasn’t viewed as an issue by her employer. She was also surprised when Peterson showed her the office nursery where her own son, Drake, was being taken care of.
“It was emotionally so important for me to have my own son at the office,” said Peterson. “I think it helped him grow by having a village around him of 20 adults who would just talk to him each day, let him sit in on meetings and play with him.”