Cartoon coffee break: How to make childcare work with work

Cornerstone Editors

Wouldn't it be nice if all it took to provide your employees with quality childcare was burning a few job descriptions in a fireplace and then just waiting for umbrella-wielding nannies to come floating in on the breeze?

But as much as we all can dream, there isn't a Mary Poppins solution to the current working parents/childcare issues impacting the workforce. Prepare for some harrowing statistics:

  • 16,000 childcare centers and licensed family childcare programs closed permanently between December 2019 and March 2021 (a 9% decrease nationally)
  • Over half of Americans live in "childcare deserts" — there isn't any childcare available, or when there is, there are three children for every open spot
  • The national annual average price of childcare in 2020 increased 5% to $10,174 per child annually (4% higher than the inflation rate over the same period)
  • Pandemic-related childcare disruptions have cost parents with young children under the age of 5 roughly $13 billion per year in lost income since 2020
  • Childcare expenses now make up 10% of the median household income for married couples with children under 18, and for single parents, costs can be as much as 35% (The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that childcare costs be no more than 7%)

How your organization can support working families

To try to assuage these rising costs, more and more people have had to pull themselves out of the workforce (mainly women, and even more mainly, women of color) because the cost and time requirements weren't feasible with their full-time jobs. This has had an enormous negative impact on the fight for gender and pay equality too.

All of this is bad, and there isn't a spoon big enough to hold the amount of sugar it would take to help that medicine go down. So if you want your working parents to keep adding value to your organization instead of telling you to "go fly a kite," it's on you to do something. And if you're lacking in ideas, here are two.

1) Provide some supercalifragilisticexpialidocious benefits

There are currently a few bills in congressional debate to address the childcare crisis. But if you're waiting on Congress to act with anything resembling speed, you haven't been paying much attention to the U.S. Congress. But your organization can try to solve it and do so in the most U.S. American way possible, throw money at the problem!

Adding a childcare subsidy into all your employment contracts is a good start. A few hundred dollars every paycheck specifically allocated for childcare can go a long way to help relieve the burden on parents. And it shows your organization cares about your employees' lives, not just their work.

Paid family leave is also a great addition to support your employees and their families. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey in March 2021 found that only 23% of workers had access to paid family leave. Parents, kids and organizations benefit when the parents have appropriate parental leave options.

The sound of increased employee engagement thanks to your childcare subsidy and paid family leave is something your people won't find quite atrocious.

2) Chim Chim Chimprove your remote and flex schedules

According to a worldwide Catalyst survey, parents with childcare responsibilities were 32% less likely to report an intention to leave their jobs when they had remote options. And if the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything positive (because 99% of what it's shown us has been top-to-bottom sad), it's that soooo many jobs can be done just as effectively remotely.

The pandemic didn't negatively impact productivity when it forced us into remote and flexible work schedules. Productivity went up!

Strict adherence to archaic 9-to-5 schedules proved to just be an arbitrary holdover of a bygone era, like, say, 1910 London. Letting your people work when they can work and have the freedom to handle their lives produces better work and happier people. Chim Chim Cher-ee.

Don't be a Mr. Dawes; work with your working parents

There's also a third way to support your working parents and the rest of your workforce that would solve many of these issues, but we didn't think it needed an entire section because it's pretty obvious: Just pay everyone more money. Don't be like the bankers in . They and their oppressive working conditions were the bad guys.

So if you want to do right by your people, you need to build a workplace that gives them the support and benefits they need to provide for their families.

That's how you can make work a place that works for everyone.

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