We’ve all heard about huge corporations like SAS, Patagonia, and American Express who offer on-site childcare, extended paid parental leave, or a host of other swoon-worthy family benefits. The outcome of this investment is clear: the more family-based benefits these corporations offer, the better the employee satisfaction and retention outcomes -- saving these companies big money in the long run.
But small businesses simply can’t afford all of those perks, right? Actually, being parent-friendly isn’t just about providing childcare, it’s also about creating a culture that doesn’t punish parents for being, well, you know, parents. While an awful lot of parents become freelancers for the flexibility, being a parent while working in a freelance economy comes with it’s own share of obstacles.
Detail & Design has gone above and beyond a parent-friendly work environment; we exemplify how small businesses can support freelancers who are also parents. Detail & Design is currently composed entirely of moms, so we’ve had to learn as we go. Here are some of the winning solutions:
Babies at Work
How we do it: I’ve nursed my toddler while on conference calls, found myself leaking breastmilk on photoshoots, and spent countless hours on photoshop while trapped under a snoozing angel. Being a mom is tough. Being away from a new baby is especially tough. At Detail & Design, I can bring my little munchkin to meetings and not only do I not fear judgement, I can also anticipate that there may be at least one other baby to play on the floor with him.
How you can do it: Can having babies onsite occasionally be distracting? Absolutely. You will hear squeals of delight when the babies decide to hold hands. But it’s also fun and we always get our work done. And a happy employee is a productive employee.
How we do it: While I will show up to our team meetings with my infant strapped to me, I know that I could never concentrate on a meeting with my three-year-old begging for my attention. When we have team meetings, we are also offered the option of a babysitter.
How you can do it: Unlike huge corporations, most small businesses can’t afford to have childcare facilities for their employees but they can offer childcare during meetings like Detail & Design. One of the reasons many parents freelance is for flexibility of schedule. When you are asking freelancers for scheduled meetings, hiring a sitter to help with the kiddos can be a big help.
How we do it: While it wouldn’t make financial sense to offer contractors paid leave, every single new mom at Detail & Design has been offered leave for as long as she needed. A substitute contractor is found to cover any projects and the new mom is welcomed back when she is ready.
How you can do it: Every office setup is different, so only you know how this could structurally work for your business. But the knowledge that she can take as long as she needs to bond with her child before returning to work will certainly yield devotion from your moms. And guess what? While Detail & Design happens to be an all-female collective, dads need and want to spend time with their babies, too.
Culture of Flexibility
How we do it: Sometimes, policies don’t always reflect the unspoken expectations and judgments of certain organizations. At Detail & Design, we understand that our teammates are busy with work and their families. Except in the case of a work emergency, we know that there is flexibility in team communication and our colleagues will get back to us when they sit down to work.
How you can do it: When parents are working around their kids’ sleep and play schedule, they appreciate being able to respond to messages within a certain timeframe, rather than being expected to respond to emails immediately. Obviously there are work emergencies that come up, but for the most part there’s just no good reason to create an office culture of immediate response. It’s not good for morale, life, or workflow!
Coworking + Childcare
How we do it: Along with fellow Detail & Design team member, Tiff Frye, I am a co-founder of a coworking space with onsite childcare called Nido Durham. Prior to starting Nido, I struggled with managing the demands of working at home around my toddler’s sleep and play schedule. Because I worked at home, I assumed that I didn’t need childcare and was constantly working at 3am to meet my deadlines. Nido has been a game changer for me in terms of getting my work done while still being right next door to my kiddo.
How you can do it: At Nido, some of our members’ companies pay for their memberships. While you might not have a space nearby that offers this unique setup, Tiff started Nido out of her house as a childcare swap. Start a nanny share or co-op. Help out with each other’s kids. Creating a little village makes a big difference.
After having my second child, I was able to take the time I needed to bond with him, but I knew I could dive back into work as soon as I started itching for a creative outlet. I had complete confidence that Detail & Design and Nido Durham would support my needs as a parent and I was right.
These are just a few solutions that have worked for us. We’d love to hear what has worked for you!