The demands of the workplace seem to only be increasing. And the seemingly infinite capacity for work to expand into all areas of our lives drives a further wedge into the endemic gender gap. This coupled with a lack of family leave is not only causing a societal deficiency, but is also taking its toll on the bottom line of our businesses. As I've said before, this is a missed opportunity. Parents and families make strong, profitable businesses. Instead of asking parents and families to sacrifice themselves to support a grinding work culture, we can adapt our businesses. It will improve our morale, boost our economy and fortify our businesses.
Whereas being parents or caretakers, having a family, is something that we should be able to celebrate and have pride in at work, we declare this Family-Friendly Workplace Manifesto. Having a family provides joy and challenge. It should not be something that anyone feels the need to hide, justify, explain away or be embarrassed about.
Parents and other caretakers have the right conditions to be some of our most valuable co-workers and employees, because:
- they have no choice but to be used to and conditioned for hard work and a relentless schedule
- they have a lot at stake and are likely to be working not necessarily for themselves but for the greater welfare of their families
- their home lives emphasize the need for clear decision-making, collaboration and the inescapable need to be able to play well with others
Because of this, family-friendly workplaces have the potential to be more profitable, effective and efficient workplaces. A workplace that values families, is a happier, more realistic and more sustainable workplace. It is more likely to retain good employees. It is more likely to generate good will, a resource that can be drawn on when it is needed most.
To engender a family-friendly work place, we declare the following...
- We recognize that life happens. Recurrent sickness, snow days, school holidays, child-care fails, school and doctors appointments, and emergencies of all kinds are part of the fabric of life and cannot be disappeared. The work will get done at another time soon.
- Having children in the workplace, from time to time, makes it a richer place. Small beings may be distracting, but it is good for our co-workers to know our families and our families to know our coworkers. It provides potential role models for our children. It provides potential humor and playfulness for our co-workers. And sometimes it is just best, in the big picture, to have our children with us rather than the drain on logistical resources that it would take to figure out where else they can be.
- We acknowledge that there is undue burden on single parents, financially disadvantaged parents, parents or caretakers of those with special needs, breast-feeding mothers and parents of sleep-depriving infants. Acknowledging this does not imply a lower standard of expectation but allows for the understanding of a different set of demands.
- A healthy family demands a particular kind of schedule. Work and meetings scheduled at the last minute or during the time needed to get children off to daycare/school or during dinner or bedtime are not necessarily going to be doable or productive for parents. A workplace that supports flexible schedules and the ability to work remotely will optimize and capitalize on the good work that parents/caretakers have to offer. We now live in a world that offers many tools for productive, asynchronous team work - we will take advantage of them to support a healthier, more inclusive and more generative workplace.
- Providing paid parental leave is integral to the structure of a family-friendly workplace.