What defines a family-friendly work environment? Paid parental leave, a flexible work schedule, the ability to work from home, a generous health-care plan, child-care facilities on site? Several area companies offer generous parental leave plans, while some businesses have gone far beyond the basics with private lactation rooms for nursing mothers and game rooms for family visits.
Google provides a very enticing package for new and growing families in its Ann Arbor offices. Kayla Conti, corporate communications manager in Google’s Global Communications and Public Affairs Department, notes, “The overall philosophy that guides our benefits has always been to provide access to paid leave to all parents, irrespective of their gender or path to parenthood. All birth mothers receive a minimum of 18 weeks of maternity leave, and in 2017, we updated our policy to provide all non-birth parents with at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave. New Googler dads, adoptive, or surrogate parents, or parents by another means have the same amount of time to bond with their new child.”
Conti adds, “We’ve also introduced a ramp-back policy to help parents transition back to work after a long leave. Any Google parent who takes 10-plus weeks of consecutive leave can return to work at 50 percent of their normal weekly hours for up to two weeks at 100 percent pay.
Other smaller and locally based companies are also easing the path to parenthood and beyond for their young family employees.
Family-friendly work environment
“My daughter, Elise slept in her travel cot under my desk when she was really young and I couldn’t get child care,” notes Amy Begin, social media coordinator at RightBrain Networks. “RightBrain has a really welcoming, family-friendly environment. We can bring our kids into work when needed, and the company offers a very flexible work schedule. It’s been helpful for me to work from home or during the evenings when the kids have gone to bed. Entire families are encouraged to attend company events like picnics and bowling outings.”
Megan Green, RightBrain’s human resources manager, says, “We recruit highly technical, up-and-comers who are interested in riding the wave with us as we change and grow. We welcome employees who are not afraid of a challenge and are willing to just dig in and help the company succeed. In return, specifically relating to young families, we offer exceptional health-care benefits for a company of our size, and, as long as projects and workflow are covered, unlimited paid time off to help with things like family leave.”
“When I started at RightBrain, we had no maternity leave coverage as the company was still very small and in start-up mode. I did some research and found a package that would help. Working here is a huge plus for me, and others. I was the first person to use the paid leave, and, in addition to really enjoying working here, I am very happy I had that benefit,” notes Green.
Child care at YMCA is a boon
for all families
Becca Schnetzer, YMCA vice president of youth development and membership, says, “One of the biggest benefits for me at the Y is the on-site and discounted child care. The childcare staff makes use of the entire facility, which includes swim lessons and extracurricular activities like dance and gymnastics. As a parent, it’s great for me to be able to spend the quality time at home with the kids on evenings and weekends instead of racing here, there, and everywhere for them to attend additional classes. I also get to see my kids on and off during the day as they are being led around the building to the next activity.” She adds, “As a young mom, I used the private cabanas with benches in the locker room as a lactation room. What a blessing to have that private space.”
Chad Wood, executive director of Shared Services, says, “We have three kids, ages 11, 8, and 5. As a family, we make use of the Y facilities every day of the week taking full advantage of free family membership and class discounts. The Y in general has a culture of respect and understanding for families. So, when a child gets sick, for example, flexible work schedules and the ability to work from home are a real benefit.” The Y also offers generous health-care programs and funds a flexible spending program for additional family health care needs.
Flexibility and understanding
Leah Trulik, human resources generalist in the Department for People (HR) at Zingermans, appreciates the flexibility that many Zingermans jobs can offer for young families. “Though work schedules are operationally dependent and vary across businesses, employees have proposed modified work schedules to deal with children’s needs. In addition, we offer many part-time and occasional positions allowing them take advantage of time with their families.” She adds, “In addition to good health-care plans and a pre-tax health-care savings plan, we also offer a free employee assistance program that can provide, for example, child counseling.” Zingermans also runs an employee resource exchange to help families find resources like child care and babysitting. “Overall, Zingermans is a family-friendly company, and encourages the whole family to attend company events and where possible, company meetings,” says Trulik.
A healthy balance between work and family life
Mike Smiley, administrative manager at Sakti3, says, “Sakti3 is committed to helping employees find a healthy balance between their work and family lives. Provided they meet our eligibility requirements, new moms and dads can take up to 16 weeks off immediately following the birth or placement of their child. We pay 100 percent of their salary for the first four weeks, then 60 percent for weeks 5-8, then cover the remaining weeks with accrued vacation or sick leave.” Sakti3 also has new moms covered in the workplace, offering a private lactation room with a refrigerator, chair, table, fan, and cot.
Smiley says, “Our work environment doesn’t lend itself to any kind of on-site childcare, but, in addition to offering a comprehensive health-care program for the whole family, parents can use their sick leave to care for the child. We also want our employees and their families to be safe— always— so on days of inclement weather, we ask our staff not to drive into work if it is not safe to do so— and we pay them! That way, we know parents and children are safe at home.”
“We’ve learned what matters most to our staff. Through short workplace surveys, we’ve know for example, to make sure company activities don’t interfere with personal family commitments, and our employees appreciate that.” Smiley says, “Overall, we’ve developed our benefits and programs to help families balance work and family life.”
One big family
Maureen Putman, global employee success manager at LLamasoft, herself a full-time working mom, notes what drew her to LLamasoft, and was ultimately one of the deciding factors for working there, was the company’s relationship with its employees and their families. “Our fun and flexible work environment is key to our culture. We work very hard here at LLamasoft to grow this software company but we also have a lot of fun together, much like a family,” says Putman. LLamasoft enjoys visits from its employees’ kids and welcomes them at company outings, such as ice-cream socials. “We also have a great rooftop patio space with beautiful views of Ann Arbor, and you will often see LLamasoft employees and their families enjoying lunch together there or playing ping pong together in our game room,” says Putman.
“A huge advantage of working here for young families is six weeks fully paid leave for birth or adoptive parents that they can take over a 12-week period. We’ve had some really positive feedback about this benefit. Employees say their teams are very supportive of them during this period,” says Putman. “We offer four weeks paid vacation for all employees, even in their first year. That’s a big benefit to enable family vacations,” says Putman, adding, “LLamasoft recognizes the importance of a work-life balance while making employees feel part of one big family.”