By Wendy Wendt

It’s no secret among locals that San Luis Obispo is a great place to live.  It is also one of the country’s most expensive regions, especially for families when they start raising kids. The parental and budgetary balancing act begins early here, as we try to maximize our time with our children while sustaining incomes that keep us in our homes, pay for quality child care and buy basics to grow thriving families.

Families can’t do it all on their own. Fortunately, employers small and large as well as governments are stepping up to develop “family-friendly workplace” policies and practices that recognize the needs of young families and make it possible to more easily balance family and work. Take a look at a few common examples:

  • Flex-time and/or telecommuting allow people to choose when or where they put in their normal hours. Offering parenting employees control over their time is a valuable benefit.
  • Employees can job share a single position, each working a portion of the hours.
  • Employers have a legal obligation accommodate breastfeeding mothers, including time and private space (not a bathroom) to pump.
  • On-site child care is an ideal option; there are also other alternatives for employers, including subsidizing employees’ child care, providing child care referrals, or reserving slots at nearby facilities.
  • California has one of the nation’s most generous family leave policies, offering up to 3 months partially paid leave (60 percent of wages; 70 percent for low-income workers). Some employers augment this policy by offering additional weeks of paid or unpaid leave and/or fuller compensation during leave.

By supporting working parents, businesses maximize productivity and profits, grow morale, increase retention, strengthen recruitment, and allow employees to improve quality of life.  Employees who feel that family responsibilities are valued by employers are less stressed, more successful balancing work and family, more committed to their employers, more satisfied with their jobs, and more likely to want to remain with their employers. Children receive the undivided and low-stress attention they need from their parents during their early years, and get quality care and early education while their parents work.

And communities? To sum it up, we all reap rewards when we share a commitment to investing in a work-life balance that supports family life while cultivating a thriving economy.

Want more information?

Families and Work Institute (FWI) is a nonpartisan research organization that studies the changing workforce.

Working Mother 100 Best Companies is an annual list of employers that exemplify family-friendly practice.

Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services provides workplace lactation guidance.

Wendy Wendt is the executive director of First 5 San Luis Obispo County which allocates funds and advocates for supporting children prenatal to 5, to ensure that every child is healthy and ready to learn.