Child care is an infrastructure that employers can support today

Can you imagine an office where children are welcome? Many would say, “Absolutely not.” This is a missed opportunity if you ask me.

There is a key flaw in the ‘child care is essential’ conversation. Resistance to getting children to work, or funding child care to work, typically results in leaders’ response to “child care is the individual’s problem, not ours”. The fault is not to take responsibility for how we allow working parents to work.

When asked why they don’t support child care subsidies, employers often point to costs and fairness as the main barriers. They might cite reluctance to deploy a benefit for some employees, but not for all. The alternative solution suggested by many people in HR and leadership positions is to support better wages and more flexibility so that parents can access the support they need when it comes to caring. Flexibility, they say, is how we will get more women back into the workforce.

This advice misses the point.

I believe that child care should be seen as an employer’s responsibility. Without child care, working parents cannot work. If we view caregiving responsibilities as infrastructure, especially economic and community infrastructure, we unlock potential new sources of funding and many new problem solvers. Think of it as the many-to-one approach versus the one-to-many approach. Child care is not just a problem for an individual household or even a government agency to solve, but rather a structural obstacle preventing economic recovery, which requires many more solution seekers.

Take public transit as an example of multifactor and mutually beneficial infrastructure support. We expect all levels of government – municipal, state, and federal – to help fund transportation because we need those systems to get people to work. Where there are gaps, some employers fill these gaps by providing public transit services.

In short: yes to buses, but no to babies.

Before Google’s and Facebook’s Palo Alto buses, there were car allowances and subsidies for public transit passes. Regardless of how the deployment looks, many employers see transportation as an infrastructure support they are willing to provide in order to attract and put their talents to work. Also, as Anne Driscoll noted, “Someone thought it wasn’t great for all those Google employees who live in San Francisco to travel 35 miles to get to work, and it turned out. transformed into a transportation network that shuttles 1,200 people per day, which has a huge impact on the environment and on people’s lives.

Google’s shuttle solution was not exclusively driven by efficiency, but also by a smart and substantial green strategy. What if we start to see bringing kids to work, or just making it easier for parents to get into work, as a way to have a huge impact on people’s working lives? What does caregiving support release in our collective community gains?

Technology companies in the suburbs of San Francisco, For the best or for the worst, understood that commuting between employees in urban centers and suburban campuses is not only a green suburb strategy, but it also eases friction for top talent and adds a retention strategy for those who don’t. have more to think about auto insurance, gasoline and auto maintenance.

In my opinion, the future of child care is understanding that the solution lies in infrastructure. As President Biden is preparing to add a larger child care lens to its upcoming economic proposal, some might be tempted to let the federal government do it. But that ignores the unique opportunity that today’s workplace leaders have to reduce the frictions working parents feel as they navigate long waiting lists for child care costs. ‘expensive kids and the extremely stressful rush of filing and picking up daycare. Not to mention, this is a chance to immediately support women who have been forced to leave their jobs due to caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic.

Kamala harris tweeted “When we invest in infrastructure, we create good jobs.” She understands. Childcare as an infrastructure means more working parents get to work while starting to shift childcare responsibility from an individual issue to a collective responsibility that sustains a workforce. diverse work. And this diverse workforce is becoming one that does not see a disproportionate number of highly skilled women and marginalized parents quitting their jobs after having children.

As a leader, there are many ways you can begin to support working parents. Here are some ideas to get started:

• Consider “no-meeting” days for all employees when children come home unexpectedly due to lockdowns, school closures, or inclement weather. This relieves the pressure and still allows you to work.

• Set aside ‘kid-friendly’ office areas where older children are invited to attend a virtual school, do their homework after school, or log in on a bad day or on a sudden shutdown day. school. A small conference room with Wi-Fi will work well.

• Partner with organizations that provide on-demand and in-home support to bring early childhood educators to your office when parents need to bring their children to work. If you turn an empty office into a playroom and bring in teachers to facilitate programming, you can quickly support a dozen employees.

• Make sure your office has a nursing room, which requires a little more than four walls (no clear glass, please), a comfortable chair, an electrical outlet, and a mini-fridge.

• Think about how you recognize and honor the role of your employees as working parents in addition to professionals. Now that we’ve spent over a year examining everyone’s home office setup, we can’t ignore that some of us are parents. Sometimes all parents need is to recognize and reassure themselves that their identity as a parent is welcomed and celebrated in the business. After all, have you ever met a more efficient worker than a parent who runs between pumping, work calls, investor meetings, and snack time?

Think in terms of infrastructure support and what your business can offer, from childcare grants to occasional loans. By recognizing workers as parents, we are sending the signal that child care is our collective responsibility, a responsibility we all pledge to address in order to get more people back to work.


Amanda Munday is the Founder and CEO of The workaround, construction of coworking spaces with on-site childcare.

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