Where There’s Good Will, There’s a Way|Jill Lublin

The last thing we want is for people to have to choose between family and work, especially in an emergency situation. But not all of us are in the position to offer paid family leave to our employees; we can barely pay ourselves, if at all. But when flex time has been proven to increase loyalty, lower turnover, and enable more productive employees (and there- fore profitability), how can we find ways to take ad- vantage of flexibility?

Always keeping in mind the idea of connection through relationships, we can treat each other in ways that help us say we understand the positions our employees are in. We are all playing in the same playground, after all, and we are aware of the rules and pitfalls. There are ways to incorporate some flexibility into your culture, even if it isn’t necessarily a “policy.” The following ideas are some small gestures that can make a big difference.

Allow early departure for certain important medical events, like mammographies, dental cleanings, annual physicals, and the like.

What this communicates to your employees is twofold: You care about their health, and they shouldn’t have to sacrifice a Saturday in order to take care of themselves.

  • Have a No-Mom-Guilt policy. The number- one thing you will find women secretly crying over is missing their child playing 3rd Chicken in the Thanksgiving assembly. If a personal event doesn’t cause a conflict between some- thing critical at the office, encourage parents to head off for an early or late lunch. They won’t only be applauding the chicken, but you as well.
  • Although more schools are offering evening- time parent-teacher conferences, not all have gotten with the program. Have a policy in place that lets all parents know they are free to work from home or leave early for an important meeting with a teacher or principal. If you can’t afford full-time childcare, offer a cooper- ative in which you allow a sitter to come to the office during a crunch period, while several employees share the cost, therefore reducing the blow of a large expense.
  • Offer summer Fridays, during which employees work half days, every other week, or even work an hour later from Monday through Thursday to make up the time in order to have a half-day every Friday.
  • Agree to support employees who are returning to school with early arrival or early departures.
  • Provide employees options for some extra time to exercise. Have some exercise equipment placed somewhere in the office or bring in a Pilates instructor for an extended lunchtime class.

These types of outside-the-box perks can help you remain attractive to a talented employee pool when you can’t afford paid vacation. So many people use personal days and sick days to take care of personal things like health care, “mental health days,” or holiday shopping, so infusing some of these flex-time options can help you stay competitive with companies who do offer more paid leave.