How to create a family-friendly workplace

Increasingly, UK companies are evolving with the needs of their workforce and creating more family-friendly organisations. But what does a family-friendly workplace look like today? And why is getting it right good for business too?

There are currently 11 million working parents in the UK. And now large, small, public and private sector organisations are switching on to the fact that the nine to five is no longer realistic for mums and dads balancing the demands of work and family. 

Agile working for all

This year the Top Employers for Working Families Award received a record number of entries, revealing just how important family-friendly businesses have become to the bloodstream of the British economy.

Winners include ICT support business Turn It On, who actively support non-traditional working. And advisory firm Grant Thornton, who have pioneered a new, flexible approach to family leave that tailors pay to meet different individual needs.

Firms are also challenging assumed parenthood roles to encourage equality for all parents.

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For example, Imperial College London has initiatives that are starting to break down this male-dominated academic institution, so fathers can play an equal role. While engineering firm Dulas is bucking the trend for STEMM businesses, with strategies for new mothers that have  resulted in a 93 per cent retention rate for 10 years.

It’s not just working parents that need flexibility within the workplace. Carers and people with elderly relatives are also increasingly needing to adapt their work patterns. Highlands and Islands Enterprise is one employer recognising this by offering a range of support to improve the experiences of its carers.

A mainstream way of working

Oliver Black is the founder and director of My Family Care. The company specialises in helping businesses manage their work and family challenges. Their ethos is all about work + family, not work v. family. But how can companies that don’t already foster flexible working, make this work?

"It’s pretty complex," says Black. "There’s no magic formula. There’s no silver bullet. Everyone is slightly different."

Read: Why family businesses are still thriving in the 21st century

However, Black suggests that businesses first need to understand the emotions of their staff who have become parents and are suddenly dealing with two competing priorities in their life.

"If you can help them get their head in the right place, in terms of emotionally suddenly combining these two things... then you’re going to have a really strong case," he says.

He also adds: "We know that retention rates of some of our clients has gone up to over 60 per cent where we’ve been able to give them some help in combining these two things."

Family-friendly culture

A family-friendly culture is at the heart of many of the country’s top employers. But Black argues this needs to translate across all of the business, or it won’t stick.

"You need senior manager buy-in who are going to stand up and talk about it, who are going to measure it, etc. But you also need line managers to get it. And it’s not just about being 'we’re going to be family friendly', it’s actually about common sense. This is about talent retention and fundamentally the business does better."

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Businesses need to have the tools, resources, help and training in place to strike the right balance.

Some of the ways My Family Care help businesses include a Parental Leave Toolkit, designed to make life easier and save time for new parents and their managers. They also offer the UK’s only comprehensive back-up care to help employees find last-minute childcare or eldercare when their usual arrangements break down.

"We know that through our back-up care scheme we saved our employers probably around 20,000 days last year," says Black.

The benefits for businesses

Making work more suited to family requirements also makes smart business sense. It can boost staff engagement and productivity, improve staff retention and reduce absenteeism. Because ultimately when families thrive, businesses prosper and the economy grows.

It’s good to see so many businesses embracing flexible working for their employees with different agile approaches. These companies are now setting the benchmark for organisations all over the world to aspire to.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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