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by Roy Saunderson | January 13, 2012
Concerns about child care can distract and stress out most working parents—especially when both mom and dad work full time. When an employee’s afternoon revolves around a day care’s or caretaker’s schedule, he or she is less focused and productive. Many companies have thus established on-site day-care facilities and other family support services.

The Families and Work Institute (FWI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that studies the relationship between the workforce and family, provides great insights into the challenges that working parents face. Below are some methods and accommodations to keep your employees motivated.

1. Release time for bonding. Employees are experiencing “time famine,” and those with children lack even more time, especially with their children. Companies can build in release-time visits to on-site (and even off-site) day care to let employees see and play with their children during the day.

2. Be more career flexible. Some companies are building in opportunities for employees to exit and return to the workforce and to increase and decrease their workloads depending on family needs. Such a system goes beyond flexible work schedules and helps accommodate even sandwich generation needs.

3. Give freedom to manage one’s time. Managers who have seen the benefits of flexible schedules are now taking the next step by providing employees greater choice about when they work and when they take breaks, as well as how their time at work is spent. This allows more freedom around not only child-care but also unique personal situations.

4. Look at caregiving leave. Ensure your company has examined and written policies addressing acceptable leave time for births and adoptions and caregiving of ill family members. Naturally, these policies must spell out the amount of time that is paid leave and the criteria for unpaid leave.

5. Create unexpected-leave guidelines. Most companies have policies and practices for dealing with scheduled absences such a vacations, training programs, and sabbaticals. But are employees made better aware of whether they can access time off for unanticipated or unplanned events? Just that knowledge can alleviate employee anxiety.

6. Produce caring bosses. FWI’s research found the majority of employees agreed that their immediate supervisors are responsive to their personal and family needs. Companies must educate immediate supervisors and managers on policies and procedures, but more importantly, they need to know how to respond to family issues.

7. Provide alternative options for ill children. Sometimes, health problems can prevent a child from attending traditional day care. Companies can provide options for employees caring for mildly ill children, such as center-based child care, in-home care, or visiting nurses.

8. Promote your family-friendly initiatives. Knowing an employer cares about an employee’s child-tending needs makes a real difference in job perception and satisfaction. In fact, companies with family-friendly policies ranked higher in job-search selection. Publicize your family-friendly practices when recruiting employees.

9. Collaborate with others to give care. Several small businesses and even larger ones without on-site day care can collaborate to create a consortium or nonprofit agency to pool resources and share startup costs in return for priority enrollment for their employees’ children.

10. Sponsor parenting seminars. Companies can take the initiative in identifying needs of working parents and arrange for outside experts to come in and present resources and information. You can even set up informal meeting groups for parents to share concerns and knowledge.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Recognition Way and president of the Recognition Management Institute, www.realrecognition.com, which consults companies on improving employee motivation that leads to increased productivity and profit. He can be reached at roysaunderson@rideau.com. Also, tune in every Tuesday to his radio show, Real Recognition Radio.