The value of family-friendly workplaces

They are healthier, have more loyal employees and are more productive


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Earlier this month, when Rep. Paul Ryan told his colleagues in Congress that he would only consider taking the job as speaker of the House if he could have a work-life balance, including time with his kids, he generously elevated an already robust national conversation around family-friendly workplaces. 

What that means may look different to different people. For Ryan, as a government employee, his focus was on regular time with his family. For another employee, it means paid sick time or paid leave to care for a family member without taking the financial hit or even losing their job. For someone else, it might mean telecommuting or access to affordable child care. For an employer, it might mean understanding what their employees need in order for them to be committed employees while also attending to their responsibilities at home.

But at their core, these issues are really the same – they all recognize that we are whole beings; we are more than our paychecks, more than our business cards, more than our value to our organizations. The best employees are those who are happy, healthy, paid fairly, and engaged with their lives — both in and outside of work.

In New Hampshire, an estimated 30 percent of firms with 250 or more employees offer paid family leave to full-time employees, and only 10 percent of those firms with 10 employees or less do so. This is just one of many missing benefits that keeps employees – whether they are mothers, fathers, daughters or sons – from attending to their responsibilities as family members. 

Last winter the NH Women’s Foundation identified this important issue — to increase the number of family-friendly workplaces in New Hampshire — as our priority in the next few years.

When women work in organizations that have family-friendly practices, they are more likely to stay in the workforce, more likely to move up the leadership ladder, they will have better health outcomes and be more economically secure in their retirement.

Men also benefit from family-friendly policies, by being able to have a more balanced life and to be able to support their families with their presence, not just their paycheck.

We believe a family-friendly workforce is healthier, more loyal to their organization, and more productive: three things that benefit the bottom line for every business and nonprofit leader. 

We are working with companies and nonprofits, with lawmakers and the media, to identify and create the changes across the state that celebrate and support people’s whole lives.

On Nov. 19, we will host our annual luncheon with the theme, “Changing Workplaces: Why Family-Friendly Policies Matter,” with keynote speaker Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO and co-founder of MomsRising.

Started in May 2006, MomsRising is an on-the-ground and online organization with more than 1 million members, more than 750 contributing bloggers and more than a hundred aligned national organizations, working together to increase family economic security, to end discrimination against women and mothers, and to help ensure all children can thrive.

I applaud Paul Ryan’s demand. Not only did he see the value in being an engaged parent with his school-aged children, he took a bold leap in elevating the issue as a national figure.

Ask any employee who asked for more than they’ve been given and they’ll tell you how unnerving it is to raise the issue with your employer and how disappointing to be told “No.” We can do better for New Hampshire families and employees. I hope you’ll join us. Learn more at nhwomensfoundation.org. 

Amy Sterndale of Durham is a member of the board of directors of the NH Women’s Foundation.

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