If you’re a small business owner, you know how vital each member of your staff is to your daily operations—in some ways, your compact, cohesive work unit becomes its own kind of family. You want to keep that work-family unit functioning as efficiently and effectively as possible, and that means keeping team members happy and satisfied in their careers.
Chances are you’re currently working with some working moms or those who plan at some point to become a parent. As a small business owner, you may be unable to offer the same kinds of traditional benefits as a larger company—what you can offer, however, is a kind of flexibility that larger companies may not.
Just as some working moms choose the flexibility of running their own business to keep a healthy work-life balance, as a small business owner, you have the power to choose to offer options to help keep your staff members’ home and work-life operating smoothly.
Offer Time Off
Parental leave laws vary from state to state, but the laws of nature are clear: The first year of life is crucial for development, so new moms will worry about how their baby is growing when they can’t be with them for the first several months of rapid development. Neural connections are happening at an accelerated rate and having a familiar caregiver that provides important stimulation such as visual, vocal, and tactile opportunities is vital.
Only a handful of states require paid family leave, and nationally, workers are guaranteed only twelve weeks of unpaid leave to take care of a newborn, a sick family member, or help an adopted child integrate into a new family, but these laws do not apply to your business if you have fewer than 50 employees. If you value your employees and their contribution to your success, you should develop a plan for new parents and ensure your staff knows of the benefits you can offer.
When a birth or adoption is pending, consider how you might shift the workload among your remaining staff, tap into the power of interns or look into the possibility of hiring temporary workers or freelancers. Or, allow your new parent to complete necessary tasks from home, such as conferencing into important meetings when needed.
Offer Flexibility in Scheduling
When your working mom staff member returns to the daily routine of 9 to 5, try to be understanding of their responsibilities as both your employee and as a new mom. Babies get sick and caregiving emergencies arise. Doctor’s appointments can be frequent, particularly if the baby was born prematurely or was born with an illness.
Parents in general often can feel pulled in a number of directions, particularly when their kids begin to take on more extracurricular activities like after school games or clubs, or if their kids have special needs. The timing of doctor’s appointments, tutoring programs and soccer games can conflict with the workday.
Offering flexible schedule opportunities can make the working moms in your small business feel like they personally matter to you and your company, and that, in turn, can help prevent the turnover that costs you time and money. Some ideas may include allowing them to come in early, to work a half-day on the weekends, or to work remotely for several hours or on certain days.
Offer a Job-Sharing Option
For those working moms who decide they’d like to drop from a full-time schedule to a part-time one on a long-term basis, consider the benefits of job sharing. This is a system that requires consistent communication between the two employees who are sharing the job and you, as the employer. It allows the option for a working mom to keep a career without the hours, while also offering flexibility and the work-life balance they may be seeking. These situations can work particularly well for busy parents, workers who are nearing retirement, or those who want to complete or pursue a college degree.
The benefit to you is keeping two experienced and reliable employees who you might otherwise lose without this flexible option, while paying one salary for one job.
Offer a Permanent Remote Working Option
If the working moms on your team do well working remotely part of the time, why not offer the option on a full-time basis? If the work is getting done, and getting done well, and the situation works for you and your team, consider letting your employee continue working full-time off-site. Some companies operate completely without a central location. Technology continues to make this option more and more feasible, through teleconferencing, secure work-task sites, shared documents, vast communication options, and virtual meeting sites. The benefit to you is retaining your experienced employee and having the ability to continue to grow without having to search for bigger office space.
While these are just a few ways to support the working moms in your small business, they’re valuable ways to begin creating a company culture that helps attract and retain the workers that will help you get ahead.