Family has always been at the core of our business. As a family-owned and -operated company, we care deeply about the wellbeing of our employees and their own families, and we seek to embrace their lives outside of work with generosity and compassion. One of our top priorities is to help our employees feel supported by their workplace, especially when it comes to childcare. “We believe that children are the responsibility of the community,” says our COO, Katie. “A good business is one that serves the community by supporting the healthy life of children through family-friendly work policies.”
So what do those family-friendly work policies usually look like? Well, for example, our official business hours are 8am – 4pm, times that better align with school drop-off and pick-up. Our working hours are flexible, meaning employees can choose to adjust their hours to accommodate their own childcare needs. And through our Babies at Work program, new parents can bring their infants into the workplace for the first six months, making work a lot more convenient (and a lot cuter!) for everyone involved. We’ve sought to instill kindness in all company policies—from extended parental leave to paid Family Medical Leave (FMLA), which provides job protection and income for employees caring for themselves or a loved one.
But in 2020, everything changed. With daycare centers closing and kids suddenly needing to be homeschooled, many of our employees faced drastic shifts to their work-life balance. And while the pandemic has brought a lot of new challenges, it has also exacerbated some issues in our childcare system that existed before. We feel that there’s a healthier way to work, and as the world begins to open back up again, we’re committed to using this opportunity to help reshape the status quo for working parents.
Challenges in our community
Many of our programs, like Babies at Work, came into being because of a need we saw for better childcare options in our area. Rural locations like ours often grapple with ‘childcare deserts,’ a term referring to any area without enough childcare providers to support the number of children in the community.
As primary household caregivers, women are often the first to drop out of work for childcare-related reasons. Did you know:
- Over 1.1 million workers aged 20 or over dropped out of the labor force in Sept. 2020, and 80% were women.
- Women comprise 94% of workers involuntarily working part-time due to childcare challenges.
- 51% of Americans live in a childcare desert, and 3 in 5 rural communities lack adequate childcare.
Childcare is something every family needs and something our workforce depends on. It should be accessible and affordable for all! And that’s where we believe businesses can come in.
Advocating for a healthier system
Our co-CEO Rebecca Hamilton is a member of the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), which, within the Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship sector, helped outline new recommendations to address childcare availability, reliability, and affordability—not just as our country recovers from the pandemic, but to create a stronger, more sustainable childcare system for the future.
The NWBC has recommended a three-pronged approach: 1) allowing nonprofit childcare providers to receive small business aid, which helps to support local community solutions; 2) eliminating the barriers that employers face in providing childcare benefits; and 3) encouraging communities to incentivize investment in local childcare solutions.
“We cannot reinvigorate our nation’s workforce or initiate a sustainable economic recovery without addressing the state of childcare. Policymakers must abandon the status quo and consider innovative ways to tackle the crisis.”National Women’s Business Council 2020 Annual Report
As the COVID-19 pandemic has upended plans and routines, Badger has needed to support our employees in new ways—like expanding our scheduling flexibility for parents who are now balancing work, homeschooling, and childcare. When the path ahead has been unclear, we’ve looked to kindness as our compass for the way forward. “We believe it takes a village to raise a family,” says Katie Schwerin, COO. “Even small steps, like providing flexible scheduling, can cost a company very little while making a big difference in employees’ lives.”
We’re looking forward to the day (coming soon!) when we can see adorable little faces at work once again, but throughout the transition, we’re doing everything we can to support Badger parents. We hope to make a real difference for our own employees—giving them the flexibility to be there for their kids when they need it—but we also aim to inspire a new movement of businesses helping to create a more family-friendly work culture.
Returning to work
As we begin the return to work, we see this as an opportunity to make changes for the better and ensure that employees to have the flexibility to thrive. We continue to advocate for family-friendly business practices through outreach, advocacy, and education—from advising local businesses to testifying before Congress. Our firm belief is that the way toward stronger and healthier communities and large-scale healing and transformation begins with simple acts of kindness toward those around us.
If your company wants to start their own Babies at Work program, we would be happy to share the details of our program and help you get started. Please contact us!