At first, the idea of businesses playing a role in raising healthy, stable children seems counterintuitive. But when you consider that working adults spend the majority of their waking hours at their jobs, it becomes clear that employers have a powerful impact on the quality of life of their employees. And employees with healthy, stable homes have fewer sick days and are more productive at work. As a business owner or manager, you have a lot of say in whether your practices positively influence the family lives of your employees.
You can build a culture, policies and practices that encourage the six Protective Factors with your employees’ families.
Protective Factor #1: Nurturing and attachment
Parents that are securely bonded to their kids are far more likely to have the positive interactions that lead to long-term stability and health of the children. Business owners and managers like you can promote nurturing and attachment through the following.
While companies with 50 or more employees are required to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave to mothers after the birth of a child, smaller businesses may find this difficult. Work with your expecting employees to make sure they get enough time to bond with their babies, either with 8-12 weeks of maternity leave or with a shorter amount of leave followed by a part-time return period. For employees reluctant to take unpaid leave, consider offering inexpensive short-term disability insurance that will pay a percentage of the employee’s salary while she’s on leave.
Dads need time to bond with their new children too. Many businesses give new fathers a paid week off to get to know their new baby in addition to any vacation or sick time. This is a great way for fathers to get acquainted with the newest member of their families.
Encourage vacation and sick leave
Having vacation and sick time wonderful, but employees often don’t use all of the time their employers provide them. By creating “use it or lose it” policies that allow employees to roll over only a week of their vacation/sick time, you’re encouraging them to use these days off to care for sick family members, or better yet, connect as a family with a vacation.
Having an annual holiday party or family picnic can be a powerful way for employees to connect their home life with their work life. By providing family-friendly activities that your employees can do with their children, you’re helping them build a deeper connection, while letting your employees know that they’re important to you.
Protective Factor #2: Knowledge of parenting and child development
Parents that understand the ages and stages of infancy and childhood, and have a good grasp on strategies for dealing with the more challenging aspects of child development, make better parenting decisions. It sounds obvious, of course. And since working parents spend most of their time with their employer, businesses can help provide some of this knowledge.
Books as gifts
If you give gifts to your employees on birthdays, holidays or when a new child is born, consider giving a book about child development. Mind in The Making and The Happiest Baby on the Block are two good choices.
Home visiting referrals
Many new parents find the services of a home visitor invaluable. Trained child development professional will visit the home, check on the child’s development and share activities parents can do to help the child meet developmental milestones. This is powerful one-on-one learning that benefits both parent and child enormously. Provide any new parents that work for you with the contact information for home visiting in your area, such as:
- The Early Development Network
- Sixpence Early Learning Programs
- Early Head Start
- Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting
Protective Factor #3: Parental Resilience
One key component to a successful family that’s bringing up strong, stable children is the ability of parents to bounce back from stress. As a business owner or manager, you know that the job can be a primary source of stress… and that’s not going to change. One thing you can do is provide resources for employees to deal effectively with stress.
Encourage regular breaks
Periodically recharging while on the job leads to greater productivity and innovation, plus allows employees to effectively deal with stress.
Reward healthy living
Regular exercise is a proven way to manage stress and promote resilience. Provide your employees an incentive to join and use a local gym. For example, any employee who logs 21 days of workouts in a month earns a day off. You can also work with local health clubs to negotiate a lower rate for your employees.
Many companies will periodically bring in trainers to speak to employees about health and stress management.
Protective Factor #4: Social Connections
This Protective Factor is a win-win. For your business, employees are far more likely to stay with an employer if they feel like they have friends on the job. For your employees, parents who have solid friendships are much more likely to have positive, healthy interactions with their children. Is your workplace a place where friendships grow?
Informal mentoring programs
These effective and free programs help new employees become acclimated with your business, while providing them with an instant connection. Mentors can help guide employees without involving management, and make employees feel like they belong.
The occasional social event on a Friday afternoon can do wonders for relationship building. It brings people closer together and helps employees create those workplace friendships that mean so much for their on-the-job performance and their ability to bounce back from stress at home.
Protective Factor #5: Concrete Supports
Every family sometimes needs some extra help. And while it might not be the role of your business to provide the help they need, supervisors and human resources managers are in a good position to provide referrals and indirect access to concrete supports.
Have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
An Employee Assistance Program is a very inexpensive benefit businesses can offer their employees, allowing them to get free counseling for personal, work and family issues.
Opt for insurance that covers mental health visits
If you offer health insurance to your employees, be sure to offer a policy that covers counseling and mental health prescriptions.
Keep a list
Doctors, dentists, child care facilities, grief counseling groups, food pantries – sometimes when an employee has an emergencies, coworkers and supervisors are the first to notice. Being able to discreetly slip an employee the contact information for a service they desperately need is a helpful, caring move that will benefit the employee, their family and you.
Protective Factor #6: Social-emotional competence of children
The most effective way for businesses to support the development of their employees’ children is to make it easy to access high-quality child care.
Dependent Care Flex Plan
Allow your employees to pay for child care tax free by instituting a flex plan. A certain portion of their wages is withheld and not taxed, and they can be reimbursed from the withheld money for what they spend on child care.
Consider a partnership
If there is a high-quality child care facility near your location, consider approaching them about reduced rates for your employees. The benefit to you is that having your employees’ children at a nearby child care center will also make it easier for them to stay with you.