Today is International Day of Families and the theme this year is a focus on family, education, and well-being. The focus is looking at the role of families and family-oriented policies in promoting education and the overall well-being of the family members. The family is the best environment and the beginning of the child’s learning.
A focus on the best environment for the child then looks at the importance of all caregivers, be it families such as parents, grandparents or siblings or non-family like domestic staff or schools.
The International day of families focuses on good practices for work-family balance. Good practices from the private sector in support of working parents are critical. The UN recognises that it is necessary for there to be a healthy work-life balance.
Children need to be cared for between birth and when they start going to school. Whether you are working or not your child needs to be cared for, either by you, other family or hired help. Many homes are double income and so both parents work outside the home and need additional help.
Very few companies in Nigeria offer workplace child care assistance. During a recent LagosMums chat, mums reported that workplace assistance would reduce the challenges that they face. Some mums have shared that they would probably have stayed at work if there was an easy solution to child care. In reality, most families rely on domestic staff to help with managing the home [Read: The Right Way to Hire Domestic Staff]
While childcare is seen as primarily the role of the woman, the whole family benefits if women stay in the workforce. Women being able to stay in the workforce leads to a series of benefits; higher earning power for the whole family and increased confidence for the woman as she is able to stay in the workforce.
How Companies Can Help
Apart from assisted childcare, there are other factors that help working parents to care for their families. Companies can offer other factors such as maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, emergency leave or sick leave. Additional factors that could be considered include reduction of long working hours, flexi-time options, part-time or reduced hours; and virtual work or working from home. If workers feel that their life outside of work is valued, they are happier and more likely to stay at a company that let’s them balance it all more easily.
Benefits to Companies When They Offer Childcare Support
Childcare support has also been found to improve productivity in various ways. Employers report better relations with their staff and increased loyalty, commitment and better performance on the job. Other workers mention the reduction in stress and better ability to concentrate on the job.
Companies can help with the desired work-life balance that working parents struggle with while caring for young children. Companies do not lose rather they gain because they reduce the level of stress, anxiety, and absenteeism.
“Our centers complement IBM’s other business practices that come under the concept of work/life. Our telework programs allow employees to work at home, a customer site or other non-IBM locations.” – Ted Childs, Vice President of Workforce Diversity, IBM.
“Childcare has an impact on employees’ loyalty and commitment. If they feel that we take care of them and their children, they would not leave the company once they have children” – HR (Nigeria)
Many women have said that they would stay with a company primarily because of its childcare policies.
How Women Can Make A Change
Women should increasingly ask Companies about their policies when it comes to childcare. For companies that are competing to recruit highly trained staff, childcare support can help improve their competitive position. This in return can help Companies become “an employer of choice”.
Taking into account the challenge of organizing family schedules to fit with normal working hours. Long working hours including travel time, leaves little time for the family and domestic tasks. Jobs with unforeseen overtime and unpredictable shifts can make organizing family schedules even more difficult. Hectic schedules can result as workers run between work demands and family responsibilities. Workers often arrive home exhausted and may feel they do not have enough time to be with their children. The stress can be particularly great for women workers responsible for childcare and thus work a “second shift”.
Women who want to successfully have work life balance, need to manage their time effectively, have strong support systems in place and let go of “mummy guilt“. Lastly, women should increasingly ask Companies about their policies or child care assistance to support work-life balance.