Jeanine Karp|May 8, 2015

Mother’s Day is upon us. While many companies remain focused on using the holiday to drive sales, the holiday also offers a great opportunity for businesses to take stock in how family-friendly they are as an institution.

As a working mom, I love hearing about businesses like celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe’s that invest in family-friendly policies. For a smaller company, Rachel Zoe took a relatively big step this week by opening up a fully-staffed, complimentary nursery for the working parents she employs. It’s a move that certainly motivates me to purchase more of her products, the same way that American Express’ fully paid maternity and paternity makes me feel good about being a cardholder for nearly two decades.

Creating a family-friendly work environment and a corporate culture that promotes work-life balance drives customer and employee loyalty, the latter of which should be a major priority for employers. But sadly in the U.S. it’s not.

A recent Harris Poll found half of working parents have passed up a job that would conflict with family obligations. In the same poll, 52 percent of U.S. workers (not including those self-employed) and 58 percent of working parents said they feel they could do their job better if they were allowed a more flexible work schedule.

When you look at the research, creating family-friendly policies suddenly appears less like an investment and more like a cost of doing business. In her blog the Zoe Report, Rachel Zoe explains that after learning five of her staffers had become pregnant, she immediately decided that she didn’t want these first-time moms to have to choose between their careers and having ample time with their children.

My company, rbb, experienced something similar four and half years ago when I became pregnant for the first time. My due date was just one month apart from two other senior rbb employees and first-time moms. But luckily for me and the rest of the staff, rbb’s family-friendly and employee-driven culture had been established years before. Our company has long offered telecommunicating options and flexible work schedules to all employees, investing in the technology to enable our staff to be as productive working remotely as we are in the office.

So when I and the other new moms began to adjust our work schedules to maximize time with our children, the company and our clients never suffered. In fact, the opposite has been true. Having this flexibility has given rbb one of the lowest employee turnover rates in our industry. Our average employee has been with the firm eight years, which is more than double the PR industry average. This goes hand-in-hand with our average client retention rate, which is also eight years.

While creating an employee-driven workplace that supports work-life balance seems like a no-brainer, unfortunately I am still among a minority of working mothers that have access to such benefits. The New York Times reported how the lack of family-friendly policies is one reason that the share of American women in the workforce has fallen recently, even as it has continued climbing in other high-income economies.

But perhaps millennials, our nation’s future skilled workforce, will finally push U.S. companies to catch up to employers abroad. In a recent survey by global accounting firm EY, 75 percent of millennials polled wanted flexible work schedules. Even more striking, 38 percent of U.S. millennials said they would move to another country with better parental leave benefits.

Simply put, being a family-friendly employer is good for business, and sooner rather than later it will be a requirement for the U.S. economy to stay competitive.


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