You can’t deny the fact that President Obama is a family man. To promote the first ever Working Families Summit in Washington, DC, Obama took to his pen to call attention to the overwhelming challenges most working parents face. In his Huffington Post essay, Family-Friendly Workplace Policies Are Not Frills — They’re Basic Needs, Obama writes just that: “Family leave, childcare, flexibility and a decent wage aren’t frills. They’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses—they should be the bottom line.”
A few highlights (or lowlights) of his argument:
- Paid sick days are not a universal right.
- Many parents have to drop out of the work force because they cannot afford proper childcare.
- The United States is the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave.
As a mom of 3 young ones, the last bullet point pains me. I have been fortunate to work for companies that offer extended paid maternity leave. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have to go back to work after just 6 weeks—the average time State Short Term Disability benefits cover a portion of your salary. Want to really cringe? Check out this map of maternity leave policies around the world. But I digress.
When your company or workplace doesn’t offer flexible solutions that fit your family’s needs, it forces you to reassess your situation. It forces you to make decisions you wish you didn’t have to make: like leaving the workforce. For many women, it’s not about “leaning out,” it’s getting pushed out. Because when you crunch the childcare numbers, the stay-at-home calculator often wins.
“Nearly half of all working parents surveyed say they’ve chosen to turn down a job not because they didn’t want it, but because it would be too hard on their families,” Obama writes. “When that many members of our workforce are forced to choose between a job and their family, something’s wrong.”
He continued to write about the lack of workplace flexibility. That elusive word that means so much to a working parent. And, frankly, to employees without kids, too. Technology can be considered a blessing and a curse, but as a working mom, it is a godsend. Being able to stop working to have dinner with my family and put my kids to bed, and then log back on at the end of the night, is a luxury. And a benefit of my job at Levo I would do anything to keep.
Flexibility also makes for happier, more productive employees. It’s a cornerstone of life at Levo. Our users agree. In a Levo Listens survey, workplace culture was a stronger factor in deciding to take a job over salary. Yes, culture and flexibility were more important than making more money.
Many companies already know this. Obama praised organizations like JetBlue with its flexible work-from-home opportunities; Google with 5-month paid parental leave; and Cisco with its flexible, telecommuting policy. It’s company policies like this that are paving the way for a brighter, stronger, happier and more family-focused workforce. But you shouldn’t have to work at a Fortune 500 (or even Fortune 1000) company to have a family and a career.
Finding a workplace that celebrates working moms—that creates policies where flexibility is the norm, not the exception; that pushes away the notion of an old boys club; that views being a parent a strength and not a penalty (and offers benefits as such)—is the true metric of success. It is companies that are leading this path toward a more family-friendly, flexible work environment that will recruit and retain the best, most engaged, loyal, hard-working and grateful employees. Isn’t that who you want working for you?
Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images News