How to be a family-friendly employer


Due to COVID-19, the chasm between employees work and home life is no longer invisible. This is creating expectation and urgency for workplace culture to be more family-friendly – and small business is not immune.

There’s a perception that workplaces need to offer on-site childcare, in office dry cleaning or generous paid parental leave to be family friendly. This is a myth, as there are many excellent ways to dramatically reduce employees’ work life tension with little or no cost to your company. 

What is a family-friendly workplace?

A family-friendly workplace adapts to the needs of an individual so they can combine their work and family commitments. This could mean that an employee who wants to coach their child’s soccer team every Tuesday afternoon is able to work flexibly on this day. It’s about making little changes that allow for a combination of work and family life to significantly reduce work-life conflict, something employers of every size can achieve.

A family-friendly work environment is a powerful recruiting and retention tool

Family friendly workplaces give you access to a more diverse workforce. We know there are more than 6 million families in Australia. Most of these don’t want to – or can’t – work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. There is a massive opportunity for nimble small business to access talent that large organisations can’t, by offering family friendly policies and practices that flex to suit an employee’s needs. In reducing work-life conflict, you also build engagement and loyalty with these employees and are likely to keep them longer term, reducing turnover.

How to be a family-friendly workplace

Knowing where to start can be dauntingbut listening to your people is the best first step on the journey to becoming a family friendly workplace.

Step 1 – Speak to staff or send out a survey. Ask, what do parents and carers and family members need in your organisation? Is it that they need a little bit more flexibility for school drop off and pick up? Do they have aging family members or childcare constraints your workplace can help alleviate? What support can you provide employees who may face domestic violence situations or family mental health issues?

Step 2 – Identify the tension points; be they childcare, eldercare, or work from home arrangements. Then identify what will reduce this work-life conflict for employees. Think one to many – what can you put in place that will help multiple people? This could look like greater unrestricted access to flexible working arrangements, more options to choose when and where job tasks are performed, limiting meetings to core business hours and core school hours, referral points to access employee assistance for wellbeing and family caring support. There are endless practical, low-cost ways to create an inclusive family-friendly culture.

Step 3 – Enable access to your solutions. Document the policies and practices your organisation has in place to reduce work life conflict and empower your staff to access them. A ten-page document outlining your family friendly policies and practices is no use if staff don’t make use of them. Regular staff surveys can be a helpful indicator of uptake.

Small businesses have a unique connection to their people, and family-friendly workplaces are borne from genuine engagement with staff and their families. By investing in a family-inclusive workplace culture, you’ll create a healthier, happier work environment for all and that has a positive inflow effect on productivity, engagement, retention and equality.