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How companies of all sizes can support working parents

Published by: LifeWorks,

Working parents are increasingly prevalent in the workforce, so the need for a parent-friendly workplace culture is growing.

A whopping 97 percent of married-couple families had at least one employed parent in 2016, according to research from the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. What’s more, 61 percent had both parents employed.

While big-name companies like Google and Facebook offer impressive parental benefits ranging from 22 weeks of paid leave to financial assistance for egg-freezing and adoption, smaller employers are still trying to find benefits that best fit their budget and company needs.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a billion-dollar tech company to make working parents feel understood and valued. You can build a supportive workplace culture for parents, no matter your size:


Smaller companies run lean, usually with 50 employees or less. It’s difficult to provide generous paternity leave when you don’t have a big enough workforce to cover the slack. And you may not have the budget to cover the costs.

Solution: Provide employees with flexible work arrangements. Flextime and telecommuting are not expensive perks; they’re a strong business strategy.

With these benefits, you encourage autonomy, which has a positive impact on satisfaction and productivity. In fact, an April 2017 study published in Work and Occupations found employees with higher levels of autonomy at work experienced increased levels of job satisfaction and more positive effects on well-being than employees who worked with lower levels of autonomy.

Flexibility is especially beneficial for working parents. It allows them to coordinate with their spouse or child care services.

Incorporate flextime by making their attendance mandatory for a select few hours each day. The rest of the time, give them the option to work remotely. Alternatively, designate specific days each week that employees can choose to work outside of the office.


Medium companies face a unique challenge—building a workplace culture that encourages balance. You want to build an A-team as your company grows, but you might risk burning employees out if you aren’t clear about encouraging work-life balance.

You don’t want an office full of work martyrs, or employees who think it’s hard to take vacation because they feel guilty and want to prove dedication to their job.

Project Time Off found that 66 percent of employees found that their company culture is “ambivalent, discouraging, or sends mixed messages about time off.”

Solution: Don’t put working parents in this bind. They shouldn’t be forgoing their children’s dance recitals or burying themselves in debt to cover child care costs while working overtime.

Make vacation time mandatory for all your employees. Discuss each employee’s track record for taking time off during performance reviews to send a clear message—taking time away from work is encouraged.

This is especially true for working parents. Vacation gives them a break from juggling work responsibilities and allows them to recharge.


Large companies are built on strong teams, and working parents are an essential part of that team. As your company thrives, you want your talent to thrive with you.

Parents shouldn’t have to compromise building their career for raising a family. Large companies can create programs dedicated to empowering parents with career development opportunities.

Solution: Start a working parent career development program. Consult with employees on their professional goals, then write an action plan for them that fits their schedule. This keeps them engaged and motivated to grow with you, which boosts retention.

It doesn’t hurt to also take notes from other large companies that have created parent-friendly workplace cultures. Here are a few that stand out:

• American Express offers 20 weeks of leave for all new parents, including adoptive, foster, surrogate, and LGBTQ parents.
• Patagonia provides an on-site child care facility, along with company buses to take their employees’ kids to school.
• Ernst & Young LLP provides breastfeeding employees with free hospital-grade pumps and access to lactation consultations. Those with newborns are trained by executive coaches.

The fact of the matter is you can build a supportive workplace culture for parents, no matter the size of your budget or employee population. Doing so not only helps attract and retain working parents, but also it creates a happier, healthier workforce.

Make your employees feel loved