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Build a successful 'return to work' program


Businesses understand providing as generous a parental leave program as possible is a strong tool to attract and retain talent. Whether you offer what the law requires or go beyond, allowing parents time to adapt to a new or first child in the household underscores a commitment to employees that they value and appreciate.

Once the leave period is over, however, the transition may be far from complete. Few parents are in a position to return to work 100% with no bumps in the road. Whether it’s the transition for themselves, or the added responsibility of childcare arrangements, there is a changeover period. Creating a ‘return to work after leave’ program can be as important as the leave itself. Here are some areas to consider to help your talent return to work as productively and stress-free as possible.


Build a culture of support

Foremost in your planning should be a culture of value and support. Gone are the days when working parents are left to their own devices. This top talent is a high-value cohort in every organization. Working with them during these transient periods is necessary to hang on to your best producers. Remind employees who are planning parental leave, and those who work with them, that the company fully supports them by policy and in action.

Consider soliciting coaching partners for new parents: ask employees who’ve ‘been there/done that’ to offer advice and a sounding board for first-time transitioners. Even the smallest tips, like getting the diaper bag stocked and hanging on the doorknob the night before, can be life savers.

Set up support groups within the organization where employees can vent, laugh and cry when needed. Like your ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, offer return-to-workers a venue to get together and discuss the challenges and rewards they face on and off the job.

Remember childcare needs aren’t permanent: eventually kids go to school and age out of the need for a sitter. Supporting parents retains talent for the long-term and builds strong teams and organizations.


Be flexible

Expecting employees to return to work and hit the ground at full speed on day one can be unrealistic. Planning for the transition period not only eases the stress for the employee, it provides managers and supervisors guidance, as well.

Offer part-time transitioning and/or flex hours after all leaves as a matter of written policy. Rather than requiring employees to ask for or negotiate transitioning time for a period after their leave (say 6 months), make reduced hours, flex hours or remote work (if possible) and programs your company policy. If employees and supervisors know the option is company-sanctioned, there’s no stress in asking for or granting the transition. They need only work out the details.


Create a lactation space

This may seem like the most basic need for returning mothers, but it’s often overlooked. You don’t need to empty the most luxurious office in the C-suite to create a space: somewhere private, clean and accessible is fine. Add a refrigerator and a comfy chair, and you’re all set – bonus points for dimmer lighting and mood music. Don’t forget to add lactation time away from the workspace to your company policy. This also should include allowing time to pump for mothers working from home.


The biggest stress-inducer: childcare

The biggest challenge for new parents, or those with new additions to the family, is childcare. Finding a great provider is like hitting the lottery, but even the most reliable caregiver can run into snags along the way. Having a backup plan, and sometimes even a backup, backup plan takes a level of organization (and luck) few parents can access. With Helpr’s Upload Your Own Provider tool, families have a new option - utilize and compensate their own personal caregiver networks with the help of their employers. 

The struggle is real for parents, but it’s just as real for business. The Council for a Strong America found employers lose about $55 billion per year in potential earnings, productivity and revenue because of their employee’s inadequate child-care resources. Those were pre-coronavirus numbers: in 2020, absenteeism due to lack of child care increased up to 144% for many parents, according to another study. Retaining top talent who face these challenges is job one for business success. 


Provide backup childcare resources

Helping employees manage the biggest stress factor of parenting, childcare, is a top priority for business looking to retain top talent. One study found almost a quarter of working parents considered quitting their job due to child care issues. Providing the resources necessary to assure parents have a backup plan in place that’s safe, affordable and reliable is key to reducing the impact on families and on business.

Offering backup resources for families pays off: data suggests childcare relief for workers has a positive return on investment as a retention and recruitment tool.

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More companies are looking for ways to support parents during the most critical transition times – from infancy through school-age - with programs and policies that attract and retain.  While most don’t have the option to provide on-site daycare facilities, programs that support childcare costs, backup caregivers and other options are not only driving retention, they’re attracting talent. Organizations that support families find and keep loyal talent that’s driven to succeed for themselves and their companies. If your company isn’t offering support, you might find your competition is.

Backup childcare support is a rapidly growing ‘must-have’ for job seekers and employees. Keep ahead of the curve - contact us for information on how you can provide affordable options to working families that support your workers and your organization.