By Paige Hobey Yes, you always had a life outside of work, but the need to leave the office for dinner with friends doesn't instill a real sense of urgency in employers. So pre-children, we put in the hours without complaint. Then we start our families. We mentally create boundaries, we fantasize about flexibility, and we could really use child care assistance. We're still dedicated to our careers, but we need help.
Here's the lowdown on five fantastic work/life benefits-from The Working Gal's Guide to Babyville, a new parenting guidebook. Take a look, and if one (or more) interests you, head to human resources to discuss current offerings and the potential for new opportunities. Work/life programs are typically fluid and constantly evolving. Most human resources directors welcome ideas.
1. Flexible scheduling
Today, almost 75% of employers offer some form of workplace flexibility. And as a parent, flexibility is often all you need to juggle work and family responsibilities without losing it. Think creatively about your job. You may just need occasional wiggle room to make those pediatrician appointments, and most employers will work with you on informal requests.
But if you'd like to officially shift your schedule, check out this overview of the latest options. Interested in one? Write a formal proposal and make your pitch.
2. Childcare Assistance
You're a working mom. Unless you (a) recently won the lottery or (b) have a relative willing to care for your child for free, you'll take all the child care help you can get. Ask about resource and referral services, child care subsidies, and flexible spending accounts-which allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars to cover child care costs.
Also, many employers negotiate lower rates with local providers or national centers. These group discounts are extremely common because they're easy (and free) for employers to negotiate while adding real value for working parents. If your employer doesn't offer this benefit, talk to some colleagues and make a combined request. With a few phone calls, your H.R. Director could save you ten to fifteen percent on annual child care expenses.
3. Emergency Family Accomodations
What to do when you're expected at the office and your child has the stomach flu-or the electricity goes out at your daycare center? Some employers help by offering an emergency work-from-home option or personal days.
Others work with third-party providers to offer fill-in babysitting and daycare for sick days, snow days, and even those awkward weeks between the end of school and the beginning of camp. Ask human resources about possible options.
4. Mentoring Programs
We could all use someone to be an ally and sounding board as we balance career and family. Ask about formal programs or try to find a mentor on your own. Ideally, connect with a mom in a similar role who can offer advice about her challenges and strategies that have worked.
5. Phase Back to Work Option
After maternity leave, new moms work a reduced schedule at first, gradually increasing to five days over several weeks or even a few months. The timing of this process is up to you, and working from home at first is another option.
Phasing back to work is often informally negotiated with individual managers. Good luck with yours.
Paige Hobey is a regular contributing writer for Mommy Track'd, Parenting Magazine and Chicago Parent as well as the author of the popular new parenting guidebook, The Working Gal's Guide to Babyville. She lives in Chicago with her husband Charlie and their two children, Bailey (4) and Avery Grace (2).