Cesar Herrera is CEO and cofounder at Yuvo Health, a tech-enabled administrative and managed-care solution for community health centers.
Every employee has a personal life, yet not every employer appreciates this fact. A family-friendly workplace is one that respects that employees have commitments outside of the organization and intentionally creates a work environment that allows them to honor those commitments. Building a family-friendly work culture isn’t just a benefit to employees; it creates a more connected, trusting team.
If your employees are hesitant to discuss their hobbies or interests, avoid taking allocated time off, skip their children’s after-school activities or apologize when they have to step away from the computer, then you might not have the family-friendly culture you think you do.
As a cofounder, CEO and proud father of three, I’ve always wanted to prioritize having a family-oriented organization. I find that the most satisfied employees have the autonomy and flexibility to manage their own schedules, set their own boundaries and prioritize their personal obligations, which may or may not include children.
With half of my team having children, and based on the way that I have built my team with intention, here are seven recommendations for fostering a family-friendly work culture.
1. Prioritize PTO And Parental Leave
I believe that PTO and parental leave are a necessity, no matter your company size. To create a family-friendly work culture, it is important to encourage every employee to utilize their paid time off, whether it’s a half day, full day or week. You may even consider unlimited paid time off. It’s important to recognize your employees as adults who are capable of managing their own workload and taking time off when they need to recoup, spend time with family or care for their health or mental health. As an employer, it’s your job to give employees the support they need to do their work, and that begins with the policies you set in place.
2. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements
As a fully remote company, you may often span many time zones. To accommodate so many different schedules, it’s important to find ways to allow for flexibility. For example, my company only holds one company-wide meeting every other week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST when there’s meaningful overlap. I don’t expect everyone to be working the same hours, nor do I mind if employees take time off during their day to run errands or schedule doctor’s appointments. Personally, I block off the same time each night so I can enjoy uninterrupted dinners with my family. A family-friendly workplace honors and respects everyone’s time.
3. Encourage Schedule Blocking
Everyone should have access to one another’s calendars—and for good reason. This can help employees feel comfortable scheduling meetings and collaborating with coworkers while also identifying times when a coworker is unavailable. Try to encourage staff to block time on their calendar for personal obligations, which can be used for school dropoff and pickup, walks around the neighborhood, doctor’s appointments or whatever else you need to do during the day. So long as employees are fulfilling their work obligations, it shouldn’t matter if they take a lunch break or spend time with their kids. In fact, I find that these moments away from work often lead to more productivity upon return.
4. Maintain Communication
Remind employees to set expectations and boundaries around their time. When I take time off, I always let my team know, “I will be out of the office during this time,” and I share whom to contact and what to do when I’m away. This same action plan can be implemented in every department and team so that employees can walk away from their work for a few hours, a day or even a week, knowing others’ are capable of managing in their absence.
5. Lead By Example
Employers need to put their words into practice. Family-friendly work cultures start from the top. If your leaders aren’t taking time off, aren’t spending time with family and refuse to take sick days, then employees will take note. As the CEO, I make a point to not only take time off and spend time with my family, but I also share those special moments with the rest of the team. I have added family photos to the company-wide Slack channel, sharing snow and beach days, which has encouraged others to do the same.
6. Invest In The Team And Culture
Culture doesn’t just happen; it’s created. You can’t just put up posters and expect a positive outcome. Therefore, I believe senior leadership must set up operational plans to make work/life balance possible. This requires active participation and feedback from employees who ultimately want to feel connected with and supported by the company. Building a culture committee and working with an external DEIA consulting firm are things I have done that can also help you ensure that all your employees have input into your company culture.
7. Live Beyond Your Words
With remote teams, it can be harder than ever to maintain a family-friendly work culture, especially since many employees’ work days are inevitably intermingled with their personal lives. In response, I think it is important to nurture your culture and build robust, long-term plans that ensure opportunities for connection, anonymous feedback and adjustments to practices in order to keep up with employee needs and preferences.
At The End Of The Day
No matter how many policies, tools and cultural practices you put into place, know that it can be difficult for employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. As an employer, now is the time to practice more empathy in the workplace.
Understand that every team member has unique individual needs. What works for one person won’t work for another—and what works one week might not work the next. Be willing to adapt and accept the changes as they come. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together—and we all want to thrive in the workplace as well as outside of it.
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