In an ideal world, any parent looking for a new job would simply scan Working Mother Magazine’s annual list of “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” and then pluck their future employer out of the lineup. Of course, for most people this isn’t possible. Where we work is a complex matter determined by a myriad of factors including location, industry, and job availability, just to name a few.
But even if working for one of the “100 Best” isn’t in your future, it’s still possible to find a company that values work-life balance and your role as a caregiver if you know what to look for.
We should, of course, always be on the lookout for the big ones—things like onsite childcare, paid parental/family leave, and the ability to work flexibly (including flex time, telecommuting, job sharing, etc.). After all, these cornerstones are huge steps in the right direction. But are they enough?
After all, many women have thought they were signing on with a family-friendly company, only to be disappointed later when that company’s day-to-day culture didn’t match up with their official policies.
So, how do know if Dream Company X really walks the walk? Here are a few things to look for before accepting that big job offer:
1. Designated Lactation Rooms
Even if you never need to use it (because you’re kids are past that stage or you choose not to breastfeed or you’re a man), the presence of such a facility is a really good sign. Not only does it indicate a desire on the company’s part to retain working-mom employees, but shows they understand that your role as a parent doesn’t cease to exist for most of your waking hours.
And, if you ever do need to use it, you’ll sure be glad it’s there. Because who wants to package their child’s food in the stall of a public bathroom? Ew.
2. Great Health Insurance and Benefits Packages
Not all health insurance packages are created equal. Look for one with lower monthly payments for you, as well as lower payouts for services rendered. Also, co-pay amounts should be kept reasonable. Because kids go to the doctor—a lot.
Additionally, other types of benefits—such as workout facilities or gym memberships—can also signal that an employer values all aspects of employee life, rather than simply what happens at the desk.
3. Generous PTO
I once worked for company that offered 15 paid vacation days per year for new hires (in addition to 5 personal days, 5 paid sick days, and 10 paid holidays). With the exception of a long winter holiday and spring break, that’s a bit closer to the average school calendar than what most companies offer. Even though I wasn’t a mother then, I still realized how much simpler life was for those parents who didn’t have to scramble to find (and pay for) care for their kids on MLK day or Veteran’s Day.
Incidentally, this company also offered half-day Fridays during the summer, which a few people flexed to take those Fridays off completely. Talk about a morale-booster for parents and non-parents alike!
4. Other Parents
This may sound sneaky, but play the role of private investigator (or journalist, if you prefer) and try to figure out about how many other parents—especially mothers—are working in your would-be department. Be stealthy. You can do this through social media or simply by chatting with a few people as you come and go during the interview process. If there are number of other active parents there already, that’s probably a good sign. If they’re in management, that’s even better.
Also, if you’re having a conversation with an employee or two already, consider asking a few questions that give you some insight on the company culture, what an average week is like, when people come and go, and work-life balance. If too many red flags come up—such as people seeming frazzled, overworked, or scared of the boss—head for the hills.
5. Family-Friendly Mission Statements
Human Resource managers often love to tout how great life will be at Dream Company X. But, how do you know if the reality will live up to all the hype?
For starters, check out the company website. Many forward-thinking firms place mission statements near their job postings discussing their family friendly work environment. If such a statement doesn’t exist, then examine the employee handbook or any literature the HR manager is willing to give you for clues. This may not be perfectly fool-proof, but more than likely if a company is willing to discuss work-life balance in print, you are more likely to see it in action once you get there.
Remember, it’s not just working parents, or even employees, that benefit from healthy work-life balance policies. Companies that are strong in this area typically attract better talent while also increasing employee retention and productivity. Meanwhile, employees feel more loyal, valued, and focused. And each of these things creates a financial incentive both sides can appreciate.