Why is it that women in the workplace are almost always the subject of stories about the work/life conflict? It’s true that, for a variety of big reasons, women are often disproportionately affected by this issue. But parenthood is equally important for men and women. Downplaying the importance of family life to men denies their basic humanity and puts them in the box of “uncaring provider,” just as defining women through motherhood stereotypes us.
The real issue we need to resolve has little to do with gender: It’s that most workplace policies in the U.S. generally aren’t family-friendly—for anyone. One report says just 12% of private sector jobs in the U.S. provide paid parental leave. Another report says only 26% of U.S. employers offer any sort of leave beyond short-term disability to new parents. In most cases, our careers or jobs simply don’t allow enough flexibility to meet both work and personal obligations.
These numbers are abysmal for so many important reasons: most importantly parent and child health. But in addition to these overarching concerns, there are also many bottom-line reasons for companies to offer paid parental leave. For one, it’s shown to benefit companies’ ability to attract and retain top talent. Women are also more likely to return to work after paid leave, and multiple studies indicate that companies with more women in top positions achieve greater financial success.
When companies offer family flexibility, everyone benefits, not just women. Supporting work-life balance can foster employee engagement, commitment and healthy living. When workers thrive, so do companies, because they boost productivity and their bottom-line.
Best Buy increased productivity and reduced employee turnover by 45% by introducing a flex-time policy.
So how can employers create a workplace culture that not only attracts women to top positions but also increases the job satisfaction of everyone at the company?
If your HR department is talking about “female-friendly” policies, you’re behind the times. Now is the time to envision changes that enable all employees to achieve better work-life balance. The data supports the fact that investing more into high-quality employees—then supporting them creatively and personally—delivers much higher profitability than a quick-turnover, low-investment work crew. There’s a very good reason our company is people-first—for ourselves and the many Fortune 500 companies we’ve guided through transitions: It pays.
But don’t just take it from us; there are numerous real-world examples of the power of giving power to the people.
When Accenture doubled its paid maternity leave, it saw a nearly 40% reduction in the number of moms leaving their jobs after giving birth or adopting.
Best Buy increased productivity and reduced employee turnover by 45% by introducing a flex-time policy. That policy allows employees to choose their hours and work locations (provided they performed their job duties well). They’re not alone: a number of studies have found similar results on absenteeism by incorporating flextime.
Many Fortune 100 companies are now offering comprehensive parental leave packages. They’ve been successful enough to inspire a recent report suggesting that the Federal Government could improve retention and recruitment by following their lead.
If you really want to know the best way to give employees what they want, don’t just rely on best practices — ask them. Informal channels and confidential surveys can both be effective. Then you can target what really matters.
The results are worth the investment.
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