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5 Ways to Make Pregnancy (and the Return to Work) Easier for Working Moms

David Rook

Even though the majority of the working population in America are parents, employers seem to be largely in the dark about how to cater benefits packages to people who are raising kids, especially working moms. Thanks to the openness of the internet and highly successful working moms (like Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook) talking about their experiences, a whole new avenue of conversation has started about making the workplace more family-friendly.

The law provides a starting point, but there are little things (even free things) you can do to help make pregnancy and the return to work easier for working moms.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I had a lot of help from my wife, a working mom of two children, when writing this blog. She had a lot of thoughts about what she wished she would have had access to when our children were young and what employers could do now to make the return to work easier

What’s Required of Employers by Law

Employers with 50 or more full-time equivalents are required to allow men and women to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Most employers will allow their employees to use vacation or sick time during their leave so that part of the weeks are paid. Some even offer partially paid leave.

One of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act includes employer requirements for working moms who are still nursing. This stems from the scientific belief that breast milk, for the first year, is what’s best for babies, as well as the reality of breastfeeding — which is that it’s time consuming. Women are more likely to give up on breastfeeding if they don’t feel their employer is supportive of providing work breaks for pumping.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Affordable Care Act, Compliance, Company Culture, Flexible Schedules

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How Sleep Patterns Affect Employee Productivity: Early Birds vs. Night Owls

David Rook

Some of us are early birds, some of us are night owls, but no matter what you are, it’s tough to switch to the other side (though it’s not unheard of). It seems to be something we’re born into. How these sleep patterns affect employee productivity is a topic highly debated. What isn’t up for debate is the importance of good sleep — regardless of what time you’re waking up.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life.” If we don’t get enough quality sleep, our bodies cannot properly repair and heal vital systems (such as the heart and blood vessels,) which is why lack of sleep is often linked to heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Americans’ lack of sleep has been a hot topic of conversation in the news for the past few years, specifically how it affects brain performance, and subsequently, productivity. Some high schools have chosen to push their start times back in order to prevent sleep deprived teens from falling asleep in class — or worse, behind the wheel. In the working world, many employers are embracing flexible schedules. Some companies are even allowing their employees to nap at work when they need to.

The negative effects of sleep deprivation on employee productivity are universally agreed upon. The problem here is that not all of us are on the same sleep schedule. Some of us burn the midnight oil, while others have been asleep for hours by that point in the evening. What’s important for employers to remember is that native sleep patterns can affect employee productivity and that fighting against them can actually do more harm than good.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Flexible Schedules

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How to Create a Family Friendly Workplace

Jeff Griffin

Being a parent is hard. Being a parent with a full-time job is harder. Being a parent with a full-time job at a company that doesn’t create a family friendly workplace is almost impossible, especially if this is the case for both parents.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “92.8 percent of all men with children under age 18 participated in the labor force,” while the participation rate for women was 70.5 percent. Altogether, this amounted to 34.2 million families with at least one working parent in 2016, which means you’re extremely likely to employ parents — and lots of them.

Creating a family friendly workplace can give employers a major advantage in attracting hard-working employees, and then perhaps most importantly, keeping them long-term. Luckily, some of the most helpful benefits you can offer don’t have to be incredibly expensive.

5 Ways to Create a Family Friendly Workplace

1. Parental Leave

Paid parental leave is a hot topic in America right now. Anyone who has tried to care for a newborn baby knows it’s a full-time job in and of itself — and for the most demanding boss (with the weirdest schedule) you’ve ever had.  

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Employee Retention, Flexible Schedules, Culture

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Telecommuting and Employee Mental Health

Jeff Griffin

Telecommuting is becoming increasingly common in the American workforce. Employees usually enjoy this perk because it means less time in traffic and fewer distractions, which leads to more productivity, in addition to more flexibility in caring for children and elders living in the home. Even if it’s only one or two days a week, telecommuting can decrease stress and actually increase productivity. Some employers even prefer it because they can downsize their offices and save money on property costs.

But one of the possible downfalls of telecommuting (especially when employees spend more time at home than in the office) is a feeling of disconnect from their coworkers and a growing sense of loneliness. Employees who feel this way may end up with more mental health issues, needing medication to help regulate depression, experience decreased productivity, or even switch jobs for one that allows them to be back in an office.

If telecommuting is part of your employee benefits package, it’s important for you to understand the effects of loneliness so you can take measured steps to combat them, as well as to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Loneliness is a Health Hazard

According to a study conducted by Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, social isolation and the resulting feelings of loneliness are as hazardous to our health as obesity. The study is careful to note that the risk associated with loneliness is from actual social isolation, as well as perceived isolation.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Flexible Schedules, Telecommuting

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11 Innovative (& Mostly Inexpensive) Employee Benefits

David Rook

An image of five light bulbs hanging on long strings.Employers are struggling to assemble impressive employee benefits packages under the crushing weight of ever-increasing healthcare costs. While these escalating expenses may be forcing companies to cut back on their overall benefits package, there are still plenty of innovative ideas that can enrich a company’s offerings without costing them a fortune. Here are 11 out-of-the-box employee benefits that won’t frustrate your finance department.

8 Affordable Employee Benefits

Convenience Benefits

Dry Cleaning Pickup

Picking up the dry cleaning is something no one wants to do. It’s certainly an unappealing errand before or after a long work day, so offering an on-site pickup and delivery service can be a welcome employee benefit. Employees will pay for the cost of the actual cleaning, so at most, the employer will only be on the hook for a delivery fee from the dry cleaner. It’s a cost-effective way to give some time back to employees.

Flexible Schedules

Allowing employees to work a flexible schedule is essentially free for employers. As work-life balance becomes an increasingly hot topic, workers will appreciate that they can get to their kid’s school event at lunchtime and make up the hours later that evening or on the weekend.

This is an easy employee benefit to offer — as long as there’s some sort of tracking system in place. Some companies use the honor system (assuming everyone will get their 40 hours in), while others use tracking websites, such as Toggl to “clock in and out” so supervisors can be assured their employees are all on task.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Plan Design, Flexible Schedules

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Flexible Schedules: Tap This Employee Benefit to Attract Top Talent

David Rook

A recent survey found that Millennials of both genders are more likely to accept a job that offers a flexible schedule. Why is a flexible schedule so important? Entrepreneur magazine reported 74 percent of employees want it for better work-life balance. Other reasons included health and exercise, time savings, reduced commute stress, costsavings, and more time to travel or spend with family.

To date, millennials already make up one in three American workers, and are expected to become the largest living generation in the not-so-distant future. Offering benefits that attract top talent from this demographic is critical to a company's future growth and success. Can you balance a productive workforce, while giving employees the schedules they want? It's worth examining why and how some companies are making flexible schedules work in their company culture.


Many employers fear that flexible schedules give employees too many opportunities to slack off. In fact, the opposite is true. Study after study shows that flexible schedules contribute to increased productivity, a happier workforce, and better recruiting leverage. Reporting on Yahoo's decision to ban working at home, the Washington Post commented, "Such a policy could very well hurt Yahoo’s chances at recruiting the most talented young developers, engineers, and executive talent." Consider the highlights from just two studies:

  • Fewer distractions equals increased productivity. Sixty-one percent of employees report being less distracted by office politics. Another 59 percent say they experience fewer distractions from their colleagues, 56 percent say they have less general distractions.
  • Flexible scheduling is a huge recruitment tool. Researchers reported that 82 percent of workers say they would be more loyal to their employer simply because of flexible schedules. Thirty-nine percent would even turn down a promotion, not take a job, or quit a job because of not having flexible scheduling options.
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Topics: Employee Benefits, Flexible Schedules, employee wellness

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