Coordinating supervision and care for young children is a common challenge faced by many working parents. It is extremely rare for school and business schedules to be perfectly aligned, and there is a wide range of unexpected events that place additional stress and frustration on modern families. For example, sudden illnesses, doctor’s appointments, and poorly communicated early dismissals all contribute to the rushed scramble to arrange childcare that is familiar to many parents of young children. Circumstances such as these are unfortunate for both companies and their employees. These types of situations force employees to make some tough decisions that could ultimately affect not only their job performance, but their overall happiness in their work environment. Companies can avoid these uncomfortable situations and increase productivity and happiness in workers by ensuring there is adequate family leave, allowing work-at-home days for applicable positions, and encouraging the use of all vacation time and sick time as needed.
One way companies can ensure productivity and happiness in workers is by providing adequate leave time for both parents following the birth of a child. Schulte (2014) indicates that there is a connection between an employee’s work-life balance. The problem is that most companies fail to see this link. Mothers need time to heal, rest, and become adjusted to the schedule and needs of a new baby. Newborns can sometimes have problems, such as jaundice, feeding issues, or sleeping difficulties. New parents should be able to take care of these issues before the child goes into some kind of daycare and companies need to be more responsive to these needs. If new parents have time to spend with their baby, they will not be so anxious, tired, or unsettled when they return to work. For instance, the Patagonia Company allows new parents a two-month parental leave (Schulte, 2014). This way, parents can come back to work ready to focus on their jobs again.
Workers’ happiness and productivity can also be increased by adding one work-at-home day to weekly schedules, if it fits with the position. A study by Daipuria and Kakar (2013) showed that a “compressed work week and work from home options also find favor amongst the respondents which give clear indication to the organization to remodel their work assignments to suit mutual requirements” (p. 51). Participants in the modified work environment find the flexibility in their schedules to be mutually beneficial for them and the companies for whom they work. While at first glance it may seem like an impossible task to create such an accommodating work arrangement, there are a lot of ways this can work for a company and its employees. Remote access via computer can make employees available anytime. Additionally, employees can participate in meetings via Skype, share documents, and send emails. The modified work schedule also makes it possible for employees to work outside of a traditional eight-hour workday as needed. Diapuria and Kakar (2013) concluded that a flexible work schedule is likely to “improve the work-life balance of the employee especially if they are working parents” (p. 51). So even if a company cannot spare someone for a whole day every week, this plan might be available as needed occasionally for the employee.
Finally, companies should encourage the use of all yearly vacation time, as well as sick time when needed. It is possible that a situation may arise that an employee just cannot avoid. Sometimes parents are forced to make a decision between their sick child and their job. Sick days mean tending to a sick child at home. A workplace culture that frowns on people who stay home when they or their child cannot be at school or is sick only harms everyone working. It encourages people to lie or even sometimes inappropriately bring the child to work with them. Similarly, employees should not have to worry about vacation days which they need at unusual times to cover days when schools are closed as well as to take vacations. Allowing people to use these days as “personal days” for whatever reason creates a more honest workplace and more productive workforce when employees are at work. Krasulja, Blagojevic, and Radojevic (2015) have shown that organizations that offer work-life balance programs have happier employees who stay longer.
It is hard to imagine that working parents are productive or focused when they are forced to leave a sick, young child at home alone or in someone else’s care. Employers can avoid these unpleasant working conditions by implementing work-life balance programs that take into consideration work and life situations, bridging the gap between the two seemingly different environments without compromising employee productivity and even increasing employee satisfaction. Work-life balance programs that create more benefits like family leave, working at home, and personal leave days will give employees more flexibility in scheduling and approved time off which establishes a more family-friendly work environment.
Daipuria, P., & Kakar, D. (2013). Work-life balance for working parents: Perspectives and strategies. Journal of Strategic Human Resource Management, 2(1), 45-52. doi:http://search.proquest.com/docview/1478029323?accountid=35812
Krasulja, N., Blagojevic, M. V., & Radojevic, I. (2015, April). Working from home as alternative for achieving work-life balance. Ekonomika, 61(2), 131-142. doi:http://search.proquest.com/docview/1708884357?accountid=458
Schulte, B. (2014, October 26). Taking care of employees boosts Patagonia’s bottom line. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/docview/1616420140?accountid=35812