This weekend, as the COVID funding for childcare expired, the conversation around RTO mandates turned back again to a core issue facing working families for decades: is going to work “worth it” when it’s such a significant challenge to find reliable, affordable childcare?
Lately, I’ve written a lot about what leaders are getting wrong with blanket RTO mandates. They’re assigning a rigid number of days instead of looking qualitatively at what we do better together and what we can do just as effectively when were are not. They’re saying badges need to be swiped a certain number of times without answering questions about purpose and how we meet our mission.
Last week, I spoke with Kerry Hannon of Yahoo Finance for her article “Return to office mandates could be detrimental to working mothers.” The silver lining of the pandemic was that employees met the moment – they shifted how, where, and when they worked in a crisis, and to a great degree, they were successful. The number of women in the workforce rose to an all-time high, partly due to their ability to adapt and leverage that flexibility.
But, as I told Kerry, “We do need to evolve beyond what was a crisis-driven execution of flexibility. But there’s a way to do it beyond a mandate. Teams need to be able to look at the work that is being done, figure out what aspects of that work would benefit from some more in-person interaction, what can be done remotely, and establish those parameters.”
Earlier this week on LinkedIn, I provided commentary to the excellent recent Bloomberg Opinion piece by Sarah Green Carmichael about the “Childcare Cliff,” In it, I shared this illuminating example of what can happen when employers offer childcare solutions:
“A few years ago, I contributed to an ROI analysis of an onsite childcare center as part of a broader flexible work strategy execution. Instead of just surveying the parents, we surveyed the entire workforce. Here’s what we found: colleagues of the parents who used the onsite care reported THEIR productivity improved because the center allowed their coworkers to not call in sick as often and to focus undistracted on their jobs. Overall, we estimated the annual ROI was 200%! In other words, if the annual cost to run and subsidize the center was $1MM per year, the estimated savings in less turnover, lower absenteeism, and increased productivity was $2MM per year. Pretty solid investment.”
As I’ve said many times before, we have a historic opportunity to be strategic and intentional in reimagining and recalibrating work to meet the needs of the business and people. And when it comes to working parents, it’s way past time for us to embrace childcare as essential infrastructure.
How do you see RTO mandates and the lack of childcare impacting parents?