Cultivating a Family-Friendly Workplace

A Journey from Fertility to Childhood and Beyond


Family is everything. In a society that doesn’t agree on much these days—locally, nationally, or globally—this is the one constant. Combined with the global workforce's unpredictability, companies must seek new and improved methods to recognize, support, and meet the evolving needs of their employees and their families. Forbes reports:

"Today’s market is hyper-competitive, and employees expect a lot more from the companies they work for. Employee expectations are closely tied to their values. When employers deliver on these expectations, they see more loyal and productive employees, which in turn improves business outcomes and propels company growth."

Attracting, hiring, and retaining employees means companies are dealing with people’s children, whether they plan to or not. In 2022, the Department of Labor reported 33.3 million families (or two-fifths of all families) included children under the age of 18. The labor force participation rate—an estimate of an economy’s active workforce—was 72.9% for mothers in 2022 and 92.9% for fathers. In 91.2% of families with children, at least one parent had a job. 

Flexibility and family-friendly policies in the workplace increase employee productivity, engagement, and overall satisfaction while also lowering turnover. Offering a wealth of family-friendly benefits can help companies attract better talent, retain that talent, and stand out from competitors.

The Benefits of Family-Friendly Practices

As we settle into the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the workforce is now mostly Gen Z (ages 16-26) and millennials (ages 27-42). Talent development firms say this demographic shows higher-than-average tendencies toward resignations, job hopping, and career changes. With this in mind, companies need to find ways to attract and retain top talent and build a positive employer brand.

generations breakdown
workforce numbers

When it comes to job interviews, it's ingrained in our psyche that employers are the ones doing the interviewing. However, corporations must understand that, especially with high-quality prospects, the candidates themselves are interviewing the employers.

That said, companies need to set themselves apart from their competition, not just in terms of salary. Companies that cultivate family-friendly cultures and offer benefits that align with that culture are more likely to entice bright young minds with the most current, in-demand skills.

It’s not enough to espouse gender equality either—companies must prove it. If organizations wish to attract and retain top female prospects from leading educational institutions, they must consider their current needs, as well as those 5 to 10 to 20 years down the road. Women in all areas of business: law, healthcare, marketing, engineering, just to name a few, are actively seeking employers to meet the needs of their entire family.

According to Jason Armesto’s July 2021 Fortune Education article:

“Amid a once-in-a-century pandemic, business schools saw an explosion in applications from women. Among full-time MBA programs, 62% of schools reported growth in applications from female candidates, compared with 42% of schools in 2019, according to figures from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC)."  

Today’s family-friendly benefits need to consider the employee's entire lifecycle, regardless of gender or marital status.

Why Some Family-Friendly Efforts Fall Short

Once upon a time, family-friendly practices referred only to maternity leave and, occasionally, for “forward-thinking” companies, paternity leave. That is no longer enough. Organizations cannot stop at being “female-friendly,” with the benefits only focused on supporting women employees. They must be family-friendly. Today’s family-friendly benefits need to consider employees' entire lifecycle, regardless of gender or marital status.

In order to stand out as a company of choice to potential employees, organizations need to be aware of the work required of each employee while also considering where they are in their particular family journey. Companies spend time, energy, and resources to train talented employees only to lose them because they failed to gauge the entirety of the employee’s needs and to recognize that those needs will evolve throughout their careers.

Employee experience is a critical touchstone for employee retention. Deliver a positive experience, and employees are more likely to stay with the company rather than seek opportunities with other institutions. Failing to see the holistic value of benefits in an employee’s total compensation package can cost a company tremendously. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, benefits can account for up to 37.7% of an employee’s total compensation.

percentage of employee compensation benefits

Family Friendly Practices Require Attention to the Entire Family Life Cycle

Recognizing the diverse needs of employees at different life stages is essential. As we shift our focus from the broader implications of family-friendly workplaces, it's important to delve into the specifics. Family-friendly practices are not just isolated benefits but a comprehensive approach that requires attention to the entire family life cycle. From pre-family planning to elder care, each phase brings unique challenges and support opportunities. Let's explore how thoughtful, inclusive policies can be cornerstones for a family-oriented corporate culture.

Pre-Family Planning & Fertility

People often regard deciding to start a family as one of life's most significant decisions, and it frequently brings intense emotions and overwhelming concerns. If there are any fertility issues, they can intensify this process. As stated by The World Health Organization in April of 2023:

"Around 17.5% of the adult population – roughly 1 in 6 worldwide-experience infertility, showing the urgent need to increase access to affordable, high-quality fertility care for those in need."

Additionally, to be a well-rounded employer of choice for Gen Z and millennials, organizations should consider LGBTQIA+ employees who want to start or grow their families. 

Employers who provide coverage for fertility treatments like IVF, egg freezing costs, and surrogacy services set themselves apart from the competition. The same goes for those who offer support groups or counseling services for employees undergoing fertility treatments and/or host informational sessions on family planning and fertility.

For families considering adoption, the financial cost can be substantial. According to Forbes:

"Adding adoption benefits to the (benefits) package is a growing national trend, responding to the increase in families who are adopting infants and children through age 18, domestically, internationally and through the foster care system."

Such benefits can and should include financial assistance, paid leave for the adoption process, and support groups for adoptive parents.

Processing the idea of being responsible for another human isn’t always a walk in the park. In light of this, financial planning and advising are other benefits companies can provide to their employees. Offering financial advising sessions to help employees plan for family expansion may not be a need of a high percentage of employees, but it’s certainly an important one for those who need it.

In order to be competitive, companies must offer robust prenatal and postnatal healthcare coverage.

Pregnancy & Parental Leave

Comprehensive Healthcare

The U.S. Census Bureau reports:

"By the numbers: 66.6% of U.S. women who gave birth in the previous 12 months were in the labor force as of 2022, per the latest American Community Survey. That's compared with 66.5% in 2021, and 61.6% in 2010."

What does that mean? It means that in order to be competitive, companies must offer robust prenatal and postnatal healthcare coverage. They must provide access to maternity wellness programs and employ a myriad of ways to support and accommodate expectant parents.

Paid Parental Leave

The WHO recommended minimum length of maternity leave is 14 weeks, with 18 weeks being the actual recommended amount of leave. Nonetheless, the United States Family and Medical Leave Act only provides certain employees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. Sadly, 40% of women do not qualify for FMLA, and only 39% can afford to take FMLA leave. For that reason, corporations need to offer generous paid leave. Research has shown that paid maternity leave increases employee retention and nurtures a more productive and healthier workforce. 

Companies can also get a leg up on competition by offering paid paternity leave. Currently, twelve states and Washington, D.C. offer parental leave, including:

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • Oregon

  • Rhode Island

  • Washington

  • Washington, D.C.

Outside of these states, fathers are only protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

Parental Education

Parental Education Education is the key to success, which is true in all areas of life. As a society, we recognize that being a life-long learner is invaluable. Companies encourage their employees to return to school for advanced degrees and often pay for them to do so. It would benefit companies to offer educational resources to parents on that same level. From childbirth to breastfeeding to infant care, there are a plethora of topics to be covered. The bottom line is:

"Going back to work after the baby arrives is a rite of passage that millions of parents go through every year, and most will tell you that it comes with mixed emotions. Bumps may come up along the way, but planning and lining up support can make things easier."

Companies can ease this transition by providing parents with phased return-to-work programs post-leave. 

Early Childhood

Childcare Support

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that: 

67 percentage mothers in workforce
"Mothers of younger children remained less likely to participate in the labor force than mothers with older children. In 2022, 67.9% of mothers with children under age 6 participated in the labor force compared with 76.7% of mothers whose youngest child was age 6 to 17."

Companies need to be mindful of statistics like these and be forward-thinking when putting together their benefit packages, considering their employees' potential future family needs. 

A 2022 Pew Research Center Report reveals that about half of workers who quit their job in 2021 cited childcare issues as the cause. Providing on-site childcare facilities or subsidies for external childcare services is a valuable benefit companies can provide their employees. Going the extra mile and offering emergency backup child care services can also be a distinguishing factor between organizations.

Lactation Support

The Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act) was signed into law on December 2022, as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023. The law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to extend the coverage of the right to express milk at work to nearly all workers covered by the FLSA.

As per the PUMP Act, companies must provide basic necessities such as private space (ideally lactation rooms) and reasonable break times, and in the case of non-compliance, companies must also offer remedies.

As stated by The National Law Review:

"The PUMP Act sets the floor, not the ceiling, and states and municipalities may enact greater protections."
For working moms, pumping at work is another job (gathering all the necessary gear in advance, such as milk storage supplies and a portable breast pump, etc.), added to the list of things they prep for and manage in the course of a day. Some support companies can put in place to alleviate these pressures are:  
  • Professional lactation consultation services
  • Providing quality breast pumps
  • Lactation spaces with:
    • Comfortable seating
    • Electrical outlets
    • A sink
    • Refrigerator
    • Adequate lighting
    • Ventilation
  • Flexible work schedules to provide time for milk expression
  • Breast milk shipping for traveling parents
It no longer suffices for companies to offer the basic benefits package or merely what the law mandates.

Breast Milk Shipping

As with many of the benefits discussed in this article, it no longer suffices for companies to offer the basic benefits package or merely what the law mandates. In a continuous search for ways employers can help new parents return to work, a trending benefit for new moms finds companies paying the tab to ship breast milk home when these women travel for business.

While somewhat of a niche benefit, people appreciate the small things that reinforce the family-friendly culture of an organization. According to the EBN article, Shipping breast milk emerges as an employee benefit, with very high feedback even from employees who may never take advantage of the program.

In the plight to find a balance between their careers and families, breastfeeding parents long to nourish both. It is from this desire that companies like Milk Stork were born. Milk Stork’s CEO and founder Kate Torgerson developed the concept after she experienced the challenges of work travel while expressing and bringing home breast milk when she was the new mother of twins. 

Milk Stork uses pharmaceutical-grade, vacuum-insulated coolers that provide a minimum of 72 hours of refrigeration for refrigerated breast milk and 96 hours for frozen. These are sent to the mother’s hotel room, along with breast milk storage bags, seals, and instructions. With Milk Stork, employers can make a difference by providing employees access to a practical solution that solves the logistical challenges of returning to work with a newborn.

Flexible Work Arrangements

When an employee becomes a parent, their priorities shift dramatically. Returning to work can bring a flood of emotions and take a physical and mental toll on parents. Allowing flexible working hours and the option for remote work to accommodate parenting needs can be a game changer for companies.

The truth is, the Covid-19 pandemic forever changed the way we work and what companies expect of employees. Offering parents flexibility–whether it be by way of phased return-to-work programs, flexible hours, or work-from-home options–is paramount to a successful transition back to the workforce. 

There are a multitude of flexible work arrangements employed across the corporate landscape. For employers, the key is finding which of the flexible work arrangements will provide sufficient flexibility to keep workers happy without suffering a negative impact on productivity or work quality. Companies that take the time to work collaboratively with their employees to find the right balance will see a positive return on their investment.

School-Age Children


Our mental development and overall happiness are shaped by family relationships. Companies that seek to aid employees in strengthening and maintaining those relationships come out on top. By offering flexible scheduling to accommodate such things as pediatrician appointments, school events, parent-teacher conferences, and athletic events, organizations are putting their money where their mouths are—and reaping the rewards.

Academic Planning

Every stage of parenting offers its own cornucopia of challenges, and juggling the responsibilities of work and family can be a job in and of itself. We’ve all heard the old adage, “There are only so many hours in a day,” and more recently, “It takes a village.” Put these two pearls of wisdom together, and you have the motto for most parents. Employers can relieve some of the stress that accompanies parenting by providing such perks as academic advising for employee’s children, hosting college planning seminars, and offering scholarship programs.

Extracurricular Support

Raising a child is expensive! Consumer estimates put the price of parenting even a single child at $300,000+. A decent chunk of that expense is spent on extracurricular activities like sports, clubs, and summer camps. Companies that provide subsidies or discounts for such extracurricular activities can find themselves on the winning end of the corporate battle to attract and retain quality employees.

Ongoing Family Support

Elder Care Support

The full family journey includes aging and the care and support of generations before us. Every single person will need and/or provide care to someone in their lifetime, probably more than once. LongTermCare.Gov reports that:

  • Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and support in their remaining years
  • Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years)
  • One-third of today's 65-year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20% will need it for longer than 5 years

While it is true that the majority of today’s workforce are Gen Z and millennials, companies are increasingly recognizing the value of their Gen X and baby boomer talent and seeking ways of retaining them beyond traditional retirement ages—or luring them back to the workforce in innovative ways. 

Companies can offer support for elder care, including informational resources and caregiving leave, a valuable benefit for employees of all ages. According to career expert, ZIPPIA, the national average annual employee turnover rate was 47.2% as of 2021. Of that number, the turnover rate in the private sector was 52%, finance and insurance was 26%, professional and business services was 64%, government turnover was 18%, and healthcare and social assistance was 39%. 

turnover rate

Family Health and Wellness Programs

If we're lucky, families last a lifetime; our working roles do not. We’ve all seen the memes and gifs reminding us that when we die, our employers will replace us the next day, but our families are the people who will miss us. Companies that want to stay at the forefront of today’s business need to acknowledge this truth and adopt a family–first attitude. To that end, companies that provide family health insurance plans and wellness programs that cover the whole family are more attractive than those that do not.

One particular benefit to consider in the effort to stay ahead of the curve is menopause support. According to a report by People Management:

"One in 10 women have left work because of symptoms of the menopause, research has revealed."

Adding benefits to support and help navigate this stage in life for women, as well as trans and non-binary employees, will help organizations retain their talent and experience. 

Continuous Education

Studies show that, above all, Gen Z and millennials want an employer who cares about their wellbeing. Companies don’t want employees that are good enough—they want the best employees. Offering continuous learning opportunities on parenting, financial planning, and other relevant topics is just as valuable as professional development opportunities. 

We talk about a work-life balance all the time; people can find it challenging to recognize when the pendulum has swung too far in one direction. Assisting employees to uphold this work-life balance and demonstrating a sincere interest in their employees' well-being will pay dividends. 

Healthy employees not only have a better quality of life, they also benefit from having a lower risk of disease, illness, and injury, as well as increased work productivity and a greater likelihood of contributing to their communities.

Employees are seeking companies that will offer a wider range of benefits, to sustain them throughout their family journey.

Employer Next Steps

It’s no secret that companies are struggling to attract and retain top talent. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2022 report, the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.1 years, unchanged from the median in January 2020.

Many of the benefits discussed herein may be short term, but they engender goodwill. There is no shortage of ways employers can enrich the experience of their employees, and employers must use everything in their arsenal to rise above the competition when it comes to cultivating a family-friendly workplace.

Employees seek companies offering a more comprehensive range of benefits to sustain them throughout their family journey. Benefits must be tailored to your workforce’s needs to help them through life’s transitions. There is, perhaps, no bigger transition than starting a family. From pre-family planning, pre-and-postnatal care, paid parental leave, lactation support, childcare, and beyond, when it comes to cultivating a family-friendly culture, companies are choosing to “walk the walk” rather than merely “talk the talk.”

Organizations including IBM, Twitter, Accenture, SAP, Johnson & Jonson, Cliff Bar, and large law firms like Latham & Watkins LLP offer similar benefits and harvest the fruits of their labor. The inspirational Maya Angelou famously said:

"One in 10 women have left work because of symptoms of the menopause, research has revealed."

Now that companies know better, it’s time to DO BETTER.

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