Child care in the workplace
The advantages and disadvantages to offering child care at the parent’s place of work.
Today’s working parents struggle to find convenient and reliable child care that is also high quality. An often overlooked solution is offering child care at the parent’s place of work. When companies like Facebook recently announced a multi-million dollar expansion to include employee housing, a bicycle repair shop, a pub, hair stylist and even a doggy day care, child care was left off of the list. Facebook is not alone as many businesses miss the opportunity to provide their employees with this valuable perk.
In fact, only 7 percent of companies nationwide offer on-site day care to employees. Since 2004, Google has opened two day care centers, accommodating approximately 200 children at two different sites. They used this new perk as an effective recruiting tool and the company grew like crazy. It was so effective that it has struggled to meet the demand for child care and also keep child care affordable for everyone. They are planning on opening a third site.
When an employer provides on-site child care, employees work hard, stay with their jobs, miss fewer work days and brag about the places they work. “Vouching for child care assistance with two quasi-experimental studies,” a 2014 study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, found that employee performance was higher and absenteeism was lower among employees using on-site child care than employees using an off-site center or who had no children. Creating an office environment where family and work aren’t mutually exclusive and where productivity flourishes should be the new work/life balance. After all, a company’s most important asset is its people who will move the company forward through creativity and innovation. The fewer distractions, the more engaged and productive they will be. The on-site child care benefit retains current employees, but also works as a recruitment tool to attract new employees that may have recently started a family or planning to in the future.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, 34.4 million families in the United States had children under the age of 18. Both parents work outside of the home in 60.6 percent of families. Evidently, child care is definitely a need in this country.
Michigan State University Extension lists the following advantages and disadvantages to providing child care in the workplace.
- Improves productivity. In a 2007 survey, Bright Horizons, a provider of employee-sponsored child care, found that 90 percent of parents using a full service, on-site day care center reported increased concentration and productivity on the job. An employee’s attention is on work and not elsewhere.
- Helps retain and attract employees. In that same Bright Horizons survey, 23 percent of parents turned down a job change offer or refrained from pursuing employment options due to the benefit of having on-site child care. In addition, 90 percent of new parents stated that on-site day care was a deciding factor in returning to work.
- Convenient. Finding quality child care can be very difficult, thus a workplace option offers parents a chance to meet their personal needs, check on their children throughout the day and work with less separation anxiety. In addition, it allows parents to commute to work with their children and spend lunch and break time together if they choose. This minimizes their time spent apart.
- Creates good morale. When an employer offers child care, it shows employees that they are valuable enough to deserve the convenience of having an onsite babysitter. Employees feel valued and appreciated and, most importantly, motivated.
- Offers emotional security. Parents who are able to check in on their child during a lunch break or when the workload allows report less separation anxiety. In addition, their child is cared for by someone who is associated with the parent’s company.
- High cost. A common concern is the high cost of operating a full service center on-site. Furniture, rent, insurance, materials and staffing costs can be overwhelming, but the rewards of productivity are just as real.
- Liability. The liability on the business in case something happens to a child can be devastating.
- Distracted parent. For some, having a child so close could be distracting. A parent’s frequent visits can impact work productivity as well as hurt a child’s opportunity to establish relationships with friends.
While the costs and liability can be discouraging, the benefit to the business can be very significant. With policies and procedures in place, the opportunity this benefit provides can be very rewarding to everyone involved including the parents, child and business owner. Finally, children in the workplace can add energy and cheer.
It is a busy world we live in. The workplace will need to get in the frame of mind to help their employees raise their families instead of putting roadblocks in their way. Day care matters to people’s lives in a way few other perks do. This is not just the right thing, it’s the smart thing.