5 Ways to Support Working Mothers at Your Company

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5 Ways to Support Working Mothers at Your Company

5 Ways to Support Working Mothers at Your Company

Balancing a career and a family has always been a challenge for working mothers, since the bulk of child care (not to mention housework) often falls on their shoulders. These stressors, heightened by the pandemic, are still a problem as companies begin to roll out their post-pandemic “return to work” policies.

As employers begin to decide what the new normal looks like—albeit in a hybrid or in-office capacity—it’s important to keep the needs of working mothers (and fathers) in mind while establishing benefits and policies for post-pandemic life. The child care infrastructure in the United States is still suffering. In fact, close to 16,000 child care centers and family child care programs permanently closed between December 2019 and March 2021. This resulted in a 9% decrease in child care and day care centers nationwide. That means parents still have to grapple with regular, after-school, and unplanned care needs—while also balancing their responsibilities at work. 

The employers that are doing it right are remaining flexible and using competitive benefits strategies to help employees—and their loved ones.  As you plan your “return-to-work-post-pandemic-work-life-balance-strategy” make sure your employees’ bases are covered, so they don’t have to choose between caring for the ones they love and bringing their best self to work. Are you checking all of these boxes?

Flexibility in the Workplace

“Flexibility” is a popular adjective in today’s job posts and company profiles. But don’t be mistaken…a flexible workplace isn’t a perk, it’s a philosophy. In the 2022 Future of Benefits report, 87% of HR respondents said they are more flexible when it comes to where and when employees are working. In addition, 86% reported a year-over-year increase in flexibility specifically for employees who are caring for children or aging parents. 

A culture that focuses on productivity, business impact, and deliverables as opposed to clocked in-person hours can be a game-changer for working moms. A flexible schedule may require more trust on the part of the manager, and the need for managers and employees to spend more time defining goals and deliverables upfront. However, giving employees more autonomy to choose the setting, timeframes, and schedule that best integrates with their lives can result in increased productivity, better mental/physical health, and relieve mothers from the mental burden of feeling like they must keep their work and personal lives separate.

Child Care Benefits

This is a no-brainer. Regardless of where your working moms (and dads) spend their time, they often have to work around their child care schedule. And when child care falls through, they have to scramble to make alternate arrangements, or sacrifice time at work. Fifty-nine percent of the HR professionals we surveyed reported receiving an increase in child care benefit requests. This is a higher number than the number of companies actually offering them. 

Access to reliable child care has also become scarcer than it was prior to the pandemic. Day care centers were operating at 88% capacity in 2021 versus 2019, and there still aren’t enough available spots. This is a major source of stress for working moms. If you don’t already offer it, consider including child care as part of your benefits package. Access to a caregiving marketplace—like premium access to a Care Membership—can make it easier for your employees to find vetted and reliable child care options for after school, ongoing, or one-time care. 

Again, flexibility for moms (or dads) is key here, which is why Backup Care is another in-demand care benefit. When the unexpected happens, Backup Care is a powerful benefit that provides employer-subsidized care for kids, seniors, and pets. According to Care for Business user data, employees who use Backup Care through their employer-sponsored Care benefits miss nine fewer days of work per year.  

Download the Future of Benefits Report

Breastfeeding Support for New Mothers

The transition from maternity leave back to the office can be tough. It’s an incredibly emotional time for new mothers as they juggle work and their growing family. For mothers who choose to breastfeed, it can add an additional layer of stress to the work day.

Support working mothers by providing breastfeeding moms with a clean, comfortable, and private place to pump can make that transition much easier, and boost employee morale and company loyalty. The average retention rate for new moms in the workplace is 59%. However, when companies provide lactation support, that number jumps to just over 94%.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act certainly helps set the standard for mother’s rooms, but there’s additional opportunity for employers to truly make the setting comfortable, safe, and functional for moms, including: refrigeration, comfortable seating, sink and cleaning supplies, and providing a relaxing decor. 

Fertility & Family-Forming Benefits

In addition to offering programs and benefits designed specifically for mothers, it’s important to also provide assistance for employees who need help along the road to parenthood. Fertility benefits are one way to add benefit equity to support those who may be struggling with getting pregnant, who want to extend their ability to become a parent later in life, wish to pursue parenthood on their own, and for members of the LGBTQ community. 

More companies are beginning to offer family planning and fertility benefits to attract and retain employees. In 2015, less than 25% of large employers offered fertility benefits. Those numbers trickled up to about 27% by 2020, and then jumped to 36% by 2021. 

Deciding on the right approach can be a challenge, and every plan can and does look a little different. Generally speaking though, employees can use these types of benefits to freeze eggs, help with adoption costs, or even cover in-vitro fertilization. Family-forming benefits are an attractive option for those employees who may need to take a less traditional route to parenthood.

Employee Resource Groups

For many working moms, having a community to lean on that has similar life experiences can make them feel less isolated. One way to provide support is by starting an employee resource group (ERG) for working mothers (or those who want to become mothers) in your office. These types of groups are a great way for members to share insights, give and receive advice, and gain mentorship from colleagues who are dealing with similar issues. You can start these groups small, and let them grow organically and naturally in a way that best fits your employees. 

Need some inspiration? Look at companies like Nike, who have a group for both the Nike and Converse brands dedicated to investing in and inspiring the women who work there. Or Instacart, whose women’s group actually serves as a forum for the company to gain insight and improve their processes and benefits to meet their female employees’ needs. 

Let’s be honest. For working mothers, the last few pandemic years have been rough. It’s estimated that almost 1 million mothers have yet to rejoin the workforce, and businesses are struggling to fill job openings. With the right benefits package in place, working mothers can feel supported by their employers. This in turn can keep worker productivity high, reduce employee stress, and ensure that your office is able to attract and retain top talent