Years ago, I was hired into a company that required me and my then two-year-old son to move across the country. It was a job I really wanted with a company I admired in a beautiful state, Colorado, where we still live today.
At the time I was a single parent with a child in diapers. I had no family support in Colorado, and it felt like a big, risky decision; I had high hopes that the company would turn out to be as family-friendly as I was led to believe in the interview process, but I didn’t really know for sure.
On the first day of work, my boss called and asked if I could drive ninety minutes to his office the next day. Sensing my hesitation, he asked if everything was okay. “I’m worried about being so far away from my son after only one day in his new daycare,” I replied. He immediately said, “I knew you had a child, but I had no idea that he is only two. Please know that you do not have to hide the fact that you have a child. Ever. Period.”
He then suggested I come to see him in two weeks, and in the meantime, he offered to come to me. This gesture made all the difference in the world to me and my son, and the culture of embracing employees’ family lives continued to impact me and my son in a positive way throughout my tenure at the company.
I shared this story to illustrate that, yes, family-friendly companies exist! If you are currently searching for a new job, I’m happy to share with you a great article from the Harvard Business Review that offers tips for job seekers looking for family-friendly work.
Here are some of my favorite points from the article.
Do Your Research Online
Do your own research on the companies you’re interested in. Take a look at their executive team: who leads the organization? An all-male leadership team doesn’t necessarily indicate that the company isn’t family-friendly, but a diverse executive team can make a difference.
Look for employee resource groups (ERGs). These are employee-led groups that bring together people in the company who share similar interests, such as “working moms” or “LGBTQ+”, etc. There can be a group for anything. If you find a company that offers ERGs, chances are that you’ll find like-minded people in the organization.
If you have a way to review their benefits package, you can look for things like parental leave and short-term disability. If you don’t see any kind of parental leave, you know right away the company isn’t a fit and you can continue your search. Other things to look for are a formal work-from-home program, other flexibility programs, part-time work, daycare subsidies, and/or on-site daycare.
Check reviews and “best of” lists. Start your search on Glassdoor, and look at Working Mother’s Best Companies List. You can often find a lot of great information through these resources.
Find a Personal Connection within the Company
Use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook to find a personal connection within the company. Look for friends of friends or fellow alumni who used to work at the company you’re interested in and connect. Ask them questions, like, “What was it like to work there as a parent? Why did you leave? Did it have anything to do with the challenge of being a working parent, or was it something different?”
Ideally, you will connect with someone who still works at the company. Things at the end of 2020 may look very different than they did at the beginning of 2020 due to the pandemic and a renewed push toward remote work.
When people were still working and conducting interviews in the office, I always looked for clues about the family-friendly culture when I went in to interview. Did people keep personal items on their desks? Did they display photos of their kids? Did they even have kids? (Some tech start-ups employ mostly younger people who may not have had children yet; those companies may be too young to have gotten to the point yet where their family policies need to be addressed.)
These days, with everything happening remotely, you can still look for clues about a company’s family-friendliness. When you interview, can you hear children’s voices in the background? Is there a dog barking, or does a cat walk across the screen? Do you see photos of children displayed or children’s toys in the background?
I also suggest asking directly, “Is this a family-friendly environment? What is the experience of new parents who come back to work after having or adopting a baby? What programs or policies do you have in place to support working parents? As you get deeper into the interview process, it is perfectly fine to ask questions about flexibility, such as, “How do you support newer employees who are also parents and currently working from home?” The answers will be enlightening.
Don’t Wait to Start the Search
Many people tell me that they’re bored at their job but they’re afraid to leave because they will lose their flexibility. They think family-friendly environments don’t exist or are very difficult to come across.
My goal with this post is to challenge that notion. There are a ton of companies that “get it” and want to support their employees’ family time. Remember: just because you can’t see it today doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist! If you are on the fence about looking, I encourage you to start poking around online this week. See what you learn, and you may be in for a nice surprise.
Photo Source: Wall Street Journal