As most working parents know, finding the right work-life balance can be tricky. Music recitals, sports practices and games, field trips, doctor appointments, homemade family dinners, and … a 40-hour (or, in some cases, more) work week?
Fortunately for working families with young children in Colorado, a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-funded pilot study at the University of Colorado is investigating ways to help. The Family Friendly Colorado Initiative, a community-based public health partnership, aims to connect businesses and other organizations throughout the state to implement family-friendly policies and strategies that work for working parents. Taking a novel two-pronged approach, the initiative collects and analyzes information about current family-friendly policies and programs while simultaneously providing the resulting information to employers who want to improve their own workplaces.
Already, investigators have gathered information from more than 50 organizations in Colorado, representing nearly 72,000 employees, about their efforts to provide family-friendly workplaces. They have also used focus groups to ask employers about their efforts to support work-life integration. Preliminary results suggest that employers taking the assessment are motivated to adopt family-friendly practices. Specifically, 96% provided accommodations for new mothers, 62% had a written policy for flex-time, and 84% offered a form of paid family medical leave. Organizations cited improving morale (91%) and retention (84%) most frequently as the reasons they offer family-friendly benefits. The information will help investigators identify best practices for adoption and implementation of family-friendly policies to improve worker well-being across small and large organizations from various industries.
Employers interested in participating can visit the Family Friendly Colorado webpage to access the Family-Friendly Assessment and comprehensive employer toolkit. The assessment helps organizations measure the family friendliness of their workplace, identify areas for improvement, and receive recognition for their efforts. The assessment includes questions in four areas that are critical to creating a family-friendly workplace: benefits and leave; flexibility; new parents; and communication, education and training. In addition to practical steps for supporting policies and programs such as accessible child care, the toolkit provides case studies from organizations with effective family-friendly programs already in place. Family-Friendly Colorado plans to expand the program to offer the Family-Friendly Assessment to more employers this upcoming year.