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Ask an expert: In the hybrid workplace, how can businesses support parents with young children?

The pandemic's tectonic shift in the workplace — making anywhere an office for most workers — has also given way to a change in mentality by employees. Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, a San Diego firm that specializes in hybrid workplace strategies says employees are prioritizing their personal lives over their work lives.

In the current labor market, workers are in the driver's seat, and they want flexibility said Lister, who has been advising businesses with 1,000 employees or more for many years before the pandemic elevated teleworking.

But, for working parents with young kids the flexible workplace has still proven to be difficult. Here are three ways she suggests businesses can support parents and their families in a hybrid workplace:

Time

Traditionally, businesses haven't really supported parents well, Lister said. So, larger companies are having to rethink as they want more people to come back to the office.

"It's not one size fits all in terms of flexibility," she said. "As companies are requiring that their people come to the office on certain days, that gives it a little bit more predictability. But as far as I'm concerned, that's not realistic."

With this in mind, one of the biggest things that employers can do to help working parents is give them time, she said. Whether that means staggering work hours, offering sick pay by the hour so people can check out as needed or providing part-time work-sharing as an option.

Cost

It's no secret that child care is expensive, so companies could subsidize costs or offer a flexible spending account in their benefits to make it more affordable.

According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, the top three child care concerns for parents with young kids are affordability, quality and reliability. Part of this could be offering backup care benefits so employees can access quality child care options on short notice.

Proximity

Many parents, especially a mom who is nursing an infant, want to work and be close to their kids. Lister said she's seen bigger companies offer child care on-site.

For instance, Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company, saw less turnover after offering on-site child care to its salaried and hourly workers.

Some companies have also established "bring your baby to work" days to help ease the transition between work and home routines.

©2022 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit sandiegouniontribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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This story was originally published September 20, 2022 3:15 AM.

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