Posts Tagged “Parents”

Think You Don’t Benefit Directly from Childcare? 3 “What’s In It for Me” That Will Change Your Mind

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In her recent article “Occupy (Working) Motherhood,” Deborah Siegel makes the compelling case that our society still has a long way to go to support mothers who work, especially when it comes to affordable, quality childcare.

To understand the roadblocks that stand in the way of improving the state of childcare, you have to look no further than a comment left by a reader in response to Siegel’s article. The commenter explained,

By “affordable,” I assume you mean “subsidized by others outside my family.” Thanks, I’m spending enough on my own kids (and my wife chooses not to work outside the home) without having to subsidize your parenting choices.

In other words, if you have a child and you work, then you need to shoulder the entire expense of that child’s caregiving. And if you can’t, it’s not my problem because I don’t directly benefit from a system of affordable, high-quality childcare.

While it’s understandable how someone could reach that conclusion, the truth is that people who don’t have children or don’t use high quality, affordable childcare do in fact directly benefit in ways that aren’t necessarily apparent.

We need to do a much better job of explaining these “WIIFMs” or the “what’s in it for me” impacts if we wanted to make progress in this area.

So here are the “WIIFMs” I’ve observed over my 15 years in the trenches helping hundreds of organizations develop strategies to address work+life fit challenges. Hopefully they will encourage support because everyone will understand that they do benefit in the following ways:

WIIFM #1: Your colleagues with children aren’t distracted by breakdowns in care which benefits you. A few years ago, as part of a broader work-life strategy review and update for a Fortune 500 company, we conducted an ROI study of the organization’s childcare center system. The truth was that management was getting pressure to cut this benefit that was seen as unfairly favoring parents over other employees.

As I analyzed the data from our surveys, I wasn’t surprised by how much parents said their productivity and engagement increased from having the consistent, high quality care the center offered. What shocked me was how much their coworkers said they benefited by having more focused, less distracted colleagues.

Once all of the calculations were finished, we estimated that the ROI for the center annually was approximately 125%. Not bad.  Needless to say, the centers stayed. The bottom line is that you benefit when the parents you work with have support.

This doesn’t mean that the alternative answer to try to minimize the number of parents in the workplace through discriminating hiring practices. First, people are going to keep having kids. Second, you will lose many of your best and brightest employees and coworkers.  The better option is to support the creation of high quality, affordable care options either in house or in the community.  It’s the gift that will keep on giving to everyone.

WIIFM#2: The parents who provide important services that you count on will be able to show up and do their jobs. You can’t get a stronger “WIIFM” than that.  I was at a conference a couple of years ago where a team of researchers from Cornell presented their study of the impact of a grant in New York City that created a system of high-quality, in-home childcare providers. The grant also subsidized the cost of care for parents who were home health aides and guards in the New York City school system.

I wish I had a link to the study itself but here are a couple of the findings that stuck with me:

  • By training and licensing the in-home care providers, they created well-paying jobs that in many cases allowed the providers to expand and improve the services they offered.
  • The parents who had access to the affordable, high-quality care reported major improvements in a number of job performance metrics including fewer absences, less tardiness, more engagement on the job, fewer incident reports, etc.

In other words, because they had consistent, reliable care for their children, the guards in the schools were to show up more regularly and do their jobs better. This directly benefits you if your child goes to that school.  He or she is safer. Home health aides were able to show up to care for you aging parents or your ailing spouse. This directly benefits you because you are able to go to work.

WIIFM #3: A high quality, affordable system of support will be there if you need it (and there’s a good chance that you or someone you love will need it.) Building a system of high-quality, affordable childcare doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes years. Thankfully organizations like the United Way through its Success by Six initiative, as well as community advocacy groups like Long Island’s Early Years Institute are leading the charge even in the face of ongoing government cuts to funding. But as Siegel points out in her article, their efforts haven’t been able to make a difference for many parents.

Maybe you don’t need high quality, reliable child care today. And perhaps you never will. But that can change overnight. Over the years, I’ve met parents who, through an unexpected shift in circumstance like illness, death or divorce, find themselves needing care only to realize how hard it is to find. I’ve met grandparents who never had to access child care themselves, but now have a daughter struggling to provide for her family as a single mother without consistent, reliable support for her children.

Maybe the lack of affordable, quality care childcare doesn’t mean anything to you today, but you and those you love directly benefit from the insurance of knowing it’s there should you ever need it.

Many priorities are vying for limited resources on the local, state and federal level. However, in the debate regarding the need to create a system of high-quality, affordable childcare, the position that, “I don’t need to support it because I won’t use childcare and I won’t benefit” doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. You do benefit. We all benefit. Now, the question becomes, what are we going to to to make it better…finally?  What do you think?

If you haven’t already, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost.

6 Ways to Promote Work Flexibility Culture Change

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Our client, the professional services firm BDO, recently produced a short video about their award-winning approach to work and life flexibility.  Here are the six lessons every organization can takeaway from the clip to help better position flexible work as part of the culture, or the way the business and people operate every day:

Lesson 1: Language matters. BDO Flex is a “strategy.”  It’s about getting work done, serving clients, and managing people.  It’s not a program or policy.  There are policies to support various aspects of the strategy (e.g. compensation, telework equipment) but “flexibility” itself is not a policy.  There are programs that use BDO Flex, but “flexibility” is not a program.

Lesson 2: The employee AND the business must succeed for flexibility to work. All of the stories and key themes in the video reinforce the point of “dual” benefit and impact:

  • ReThink–The possibilities are endless
  • ReFresh–You work hard. Use Flex to recharge
  • ReDefine–Don’t accept business as usual
  • ReDiscover–Don’t lose sight of your dreams
  • ReAssure–Small changes can make a big impact

Lesson 3: Take the time and invest the resources to create a shared vision of success that anchors the strategy. It took months for the firm to create the “BDO Thrives on Flexibility” vision statement, but that process changed hearts and minds and created a shared understanding which moved the culture.

Lesson 4: Flexibility is not just about formal flexible work arrangements. It’s about both formal and informal, day-to-day flexibility in how, when and where you work and manage your life. It’s not an “arrangement,” but a well thought out plan tailored to meet your unique needs and the needs of the business.

Lesson 5: Men and women want and use work flexibility. Work flexibility is not a women’s issue.  It’s a strategy to help all people fit the unique pieces of their lives together in a competitive, hectic, global economy and for businesses to work smarter and better.

Lesson 6: Flexibility is not about child care only. Yes, parents absolutely need to work flexibly; however, as the video shows so do employees who have spouses who relocate, who have a passion for ballroom dancing or cartoon drawing, and who want to stay healthy.  And it’s for leaders who want to reduce the level of employee burnout and service clients better.

What other lessons did you learn from watching how one organization is talking about and positioning strategic flexibility in their business?  What is your organization doing?

If you haven’t already, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost!

(Fast Company) Change the Game: Add Aging to the Parent-Centric Work+Life Debate

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The other day, as I read Sharon Meers’ (author of Getting to 50/50) clear and compelling article in The Washington Post, “How Joe Biden Can Help Working Parents,” I had two conflicting reactions:

  1. First was, “Go Sharon!” because she did a great job laying out the powerful data that support why we all benefit from helping parents manage their work and life. And she honestly addressed the common roadblocks that get in the way. But then …
  2. I thought “Are we still having this same conversation 15 years later?!” You see, I could dig back through my files and probably find a similar article making many of the same arguments from 1990.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the power of parenthood alone to catalyze a radical change in the way business, individuals and government approach work and life is limited.

No matter how many smart people, like Meers or Vice President Biden, join in the conversation, no matter how many pieces of research objectively state the need and benefits, we just can’t seem to move the needle.

We need a game changer. We need something that breaks us out of the rut we’ve been stuck in for 20 years and takes the debate to the next level. We need an issue that drives home the reality that finding new and better work+life strategies is not optional, or a “nice thing to do in good times.”

We need … to include the aging population. Why? It’s one of the greatest challenges both those who are aging and their caregivers (and, in turn, employers) are going to face in terms of the sheer number of people affected. Turns out, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Last week in The New York Times, David Brooks ranked “the aging population” first in the list of “deep fundamental problems” we are facing as a county.

As the parent of two beautiful children and as someone who can recite the bottom line benefits of work+life strategies in her sleep, am I frustrated that the argument for supporting parents hasn’t been enough to make more meaningful change happen? Yes, very.

But I’m also a realist who knows that at the end of the day change happens when people understand the “WIFM” or what’s-in-it-for-me. Adding the challenges of an aging population to the argument expands the base of people who “get it” and who are, therefore, invested in seeking solutions.

Here are some of the reasons I believe the work+life debate will finally get teeth if we add the challenges of aging. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well: (Click here for more)

Tame the Tween Texting Beast with a Great Parent/Child Contract

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This past June, after achieving certain academic goals, our 11 year old daughter got the privilege to text.  It’s limited texting–only 10 outgoing texts a day–but it is texting nonetheless.  I’d heard the horror stories of texting from other parents. The distraction, the inappropriate forwarding, the lack of verbal communication, and even bullying.  So prior to bestowing this honor, I discussed my concerns with parent and work/family Ph.D., Dr. Christine Murray.  She graciously shared the “Texting and Cell Phone” contract she developed and had her daughter sign.  Four months into our texting tenure, it’s been a godsend:Fotolia_17285308_XS

  • Upfront, we were all on the same page–my daughter, her dad and I.
  • Expectations and ramifications were clarified and understood.
  • When an infraction occurs (they inevitably do!) we go back to the contract which is publicly posted in our kitchen.  Consequences are executed with a low drama level, which as any parent of a tween daughter knows is not always easy.

Now, Dr. Murray has generously agreed to share her contract with you!   Enjoy.  Hope it helps you tame the tween texting beast.  Let us know how it goes.

Texting and Cell Phone Rules

1.    Do not text in the following circumstances:

  • at the table – at home or in a restaurant.
  • while in a car with other people (unless it is a long car trip, or an emergency – in which case you should excuse yourself before sending the text…”sorry, I just need to send a quick text to my mom.”)
  • at church, on a family outing, in the movies
  • in other circumstances, use your common sense to decide if it is an appropriate time to text – is it rude to the people around you?

2.    You should not text one friend while you are with another friend.  It is rude and indicates that you don’t care enough about the person or people you are with.

3.    Text messaging should not take the place of interacting with your friends – getting together or calling.

4.    Be careful about what you text – do not spread gossip or say mean things via text.  It is too easily passed around and can cause hurt feelings.  It is also a permanent record. You are responsible for what you text

5.    Do not give bad news by text – don’t break up with someone by text or give other bad news.  Do it in person, ideally, or on the phone if you can’t do it in person.

6.    It is easy for a text message to be misunderstood because the recipient of the message can’t see the sender’s facial expressions or hear her tone of voice. Jokes and sarcastic comments may cause hard feelings if they’re passed along in a text message.

7.    Be very careful about sending pictures or videos.  Never send any inappropriate photos or videos.  Try to avoid sending photos or videos of yourself or other people at all.

8.    Your phone should be in the kitchen charging by 9:00pm on a school night and by 10:00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.  Your phone may not be in your room overnight.

9.    Never-ever text while you are driving a car.  Never-ever read a text while you are driving a car.  Pull over to the side of the road.

10. Texting is a privilege and can be revoked for poor behavior.

11.  Parents reserve the right to check text messages at any time.

I have read and understand these rules.  I agree to follow these rules and realize that if I do not, my texting and/or cell phone privileges may be suspended or revoked.

Name                    Date

Not Just for Families? National Work and Family Month

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October is National Work and Family Month.   I’m guessing for many readers your initial reaction is, “Oh, that’s nice, a month for parents and kids” (assuming you even clicked on this post because you thought it didn’t apply to you).

We tend to think of “work and family” specifically, and work+life fit more broadly, as a nice thing to do, but not critical to the success of all individuals, and employers.  This year’s Work and Family Month is the perfect time to set the record straight:

1) Strategic work+life flexibility is a mission-critical issue for the success of every individual, and for the bottom-line global competitiveness of every organization. 

We operate in “always on,” “do more with less” reality where change is constant and increasing in frequency.  We all need flexibility in where, when and how work is done, both day-to-day flexibility and formal flex plans.  We need leaves of absence, and other direct programs and policies that help us to flexibly manage all of the personal work+life transitions—parenting, eldercare, retirement, continuing education, community service, etc—most of us will experience at one time or another.  

2) Work and family-related events are a significant part of the broader work+life fit experience, and they apply to all of us.  We may not have children, but we all do have family, be it a family of origin or a family of choice.  All of us have parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends who are going to age and require care.  And even if we aren’t parents ourselves, we all have a vested interest (whether we know if or not) in helping our colleagues manage that part of their lives effectively. 

Why does it matter?  Because as long as work+life fit, and more specifically work and family is considered something nice but not essential, the sense of urgency necessary to envision and execute new strategies, programs, and policies that reflect the realities of today’s world will be absent. 

To that end, either we need to redefine what the word “family” means in the context of the broader work+life discussion, or we need to come up with new language that captures the inclusivity.  We cannot afford another year without movement on core issues related to work+life flexibility, child care, eldercare, different types of leaves, health care, and retirement.  And I’m afraid that will happen if we don’t start thinking and talking about the issues of work, life, and family as being relevant for all. 

So, in honor of National Work and Family Month, take a minute to recognize that we all are part of a family, no matter what phase of life we are in.  And now that boundaries between work and life no longer exist, the traditional rules regarding care of family in its broadest definition need to be rewritten.  It isn’t just a nice thing to do for parents and kids.  It’s critical to the success of every person and organization.  Happy Work and Family Month!