Creating family-friendly workplaces is the goal of a new coalition of community and business leaders launched this summer.
One goal of the Family Forward NC Advisory Council is to develop a guide for businesses in the state to create workplaces that are supportive of families by improving the lives of children and creating a more productive work environment.
“We have a shortage of child care all the way around in the Asheville area, and there are a variety of reasons for that,” said Kit Cramer, president and chief executive of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s an expensive proposition to get into, and the wages for child-care workers are abysmally low, so people don’t want to go into the business.”
The Advisory Council is one of three conduits for the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation to gather data for a guide and business toolkit to be released later this year. It will include guidance on how to offer paid parental leave, flexible scheduling and accommodations for pregnant workers.
Research has shown that family-friendly policies improve children’s overall health and well-being and keep businesses competitive. Jessica Lowery Clark, executive director of the Robeson County Partnership for Children, said more family-friendly work environments also help build a better community.
“Our productivity is increased when we’re happy we’re at work, and also knowing that we have an employer that values our time with the agency so much that they’re willing to be flexible, so that we can be able to be with our children when we need to be with our children.”
According to research released by Artemis Strategy Group and commissioned by the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation, 71 percent of employers in the state think family-friendly policies have a positive impact on their organization. Cramer said a better support network pays big dividends for all involved.
“There’s been a lot of research done about what that does for the long-term trajectory of that child,” she said, “that it greatly enhances their ability to learn and their skill sets for the future.”
She said Family Forward NC may be a business initiative, but its goal is to improve children’s lives and health, which in turn will keep the state’s businesses competitive.