Creating a family friendly culture in the workplace

How important are family friendly policies and benefits in organisational culture?

Is there a correlation between a high performing organisation and a family friendly workplace?

It seems obvious that the answer is yes…and yet, there are many organisations who put family friendly policies and benefits at the bottom of the pile.  Family friendly policies and benefits are known to increase retention, recruitment, morale and productivity.  Arguably, these policies and benefits come at a cost to the organisation, so do the benefits outweigh the costs?  It can be difficult to put a figure on this type of benefit and return on investment.

There is also the unseen or lesser known part of family friendly policies and benefits that organisations can adopt; these are related to family building options such as infertility treatment insurance coverage, adoption grants, sick leave (for miscarriage or medical treatments), flexible working and egg freezing.

Simply having these policies and benefits will certainly contribute to a family friendly culture…but there is something deeper than these – a family friendly organizational culture that builds on the policies nd benefits.

You may have heard the saying – “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This simply means that no matter how good the policies are they need to be supported by the organisation’s culture.

Going beyond the policies and benefits, leaders and staff need to develop the values and behaviours that make up the family-friendly culture:

Open Communication – on both work/life needs and institutional priorities.  Staff need to be able to freely communicate to their leaders and vice versa without incrimination or judgement. The ability to give 360 degree feedback freely about what works and what doesn’t contributes to this open communication environment.

Flexibility – at all levels of the organisation.  Creating an environment that makes it OK to ask for flexible working or time off by creating space to.  Believing that employees are less loyal or productive for asking for these creates will creates negative culture.

Commitment – recognition that a good work/life culture benefits everyone.

Fairness – fair doesn’t mean equal; leaders need to understand that one size doesn’t fit all, applying family friendly policies consistently is important.

These values can’t be written down in policy or given away as a benefit…they have to be enacted out by the people we work with every day and inspired by our leaders in our day to day lives.

What other values and behaviours do you think make up a family friendly culture that we can live by in our workplaces, including family building?

Do your leaders say they are family friendly but don’t live by the values they preach?

So, do you want children too?

So, do you want children too?

Multiple choice answers, you only get one chance to get the right answer:

A) Reply smoothly, “Yes, some day soon – kids are cool”.

B) Reply, indignantly “No, never ” (By the way, did you know that you just spent 10 minutes complaining about kids taking up all your free time – you have put me off them for life).

C) Reply, matter-of-factly “Yes, actually we going to be making one in a petri dish next month, maybe even two.  Hopefully that will do the trick.”

D) Pretend to see someone calling you from the other side of the room and run away, trying not to cry until you make it to the toilets.

This weekend I went to a beautiful wedding back in the UK, my friend from school was tying the knot!!  I lamented in my last post about drinking alcohol at the party and dreading answering the question why I wasn’t drinking.  In the end, I decided to have a couple of drinks, but only a glass of champagne and glass of wine – I also tried a bit of gin and tonic (ohhhhhh how I miss you gin and the bitter-sweet taste of tonic water with a slice of tongue tingling lime).  I will say, that having not being used to these beverages I was a little tipsy – in a good way – it went straight to my head!  But a merry affair was had 🙂  It was just the most lovely wedding and I am so happy for my friend that she has found love with a rather lovely gentleman who will treat her well.

The wedding was at a beautiful venue in a harbour on the South coast (a tad windy!)

The wedding was at a beautiful venue in a harbour on the South coast (a tad windy!)

Right, back to the subject of this post.  Without thinking much about having to answer the question “Why are you not drinking”…I forgot about the classic question that came a bit out left of field “So…how about you, do you want children?”.  And to make matters worse, the question came from a ‘high school ex boyfriend’ who I haven’t since in as many years.  He had just spent several minutes talking about his kids (who, by the way, were two adorable little cuties who are super bright) and he then just came out with the question.

So which multiple choice answer do you think I gave???  Well, for some reason I decided to go with C: “Yes, actually we going to be making one in a petri dish next month, maybe even two.  Hopefully that will do the trick.”  I don’t know why it was my instinct to say it, but then the conversation just got awkward after that.  Damn it.  I hate awkwardness.  I won’t be using that answer EVER again 🙂  I’ll stick with A: “Yes, some day soon – kids are cool”.