America is often lambasted for maternity leave benefits that often fall far short of the rest of the developed world. Considering that in 2017, more than 54% of employees ended the year with unused vacation time adding up to 662 million days, however, it’s questionable if employees would actually use better maternity leave benefits even if they were offered. Many people think offering longer maternity leave could be the answer, but parenting challenges also don’t end a few weeks after a child is born. There are many more ways a business can help support new parents, in addition to offering adequate parent leave options for when a baby is first brought home. Here are three ways businesses can support parents, new and otherwise.

Make sure the benefits will be used by employees

All too often businesses look at what other businesses are doing or offering and simply aim to offer something competitive. What parents need in one office, however, may not be what parents in another office need. Offering daycare subsidies to an office that largely consists of parents of older children and teenagers won’t do them much good. Flexible schedules and remote work opportunities would, however.

Make vacation mandatory

There is no question that when children arrive, the responsibility level of parents goes up. This increased responsibility means that while losing a job when single can be stressful and challenging, the stress level rises exponentially with every additional mouth you have to feed, clothe, and shelter. Employees with families may be loathe to take vacation days simply because they are afraid of falling behind or looking less diligent than single employees that can work longer hours because they have fewer outside commitments. By making vacation mandatory, you take away the temptation to not take them in order to keep up.

Set a good example

Creating a healthy work environment starts at the top. When managers and executives take time during the day to attend family events or stay home to care for their sick child, their employees will too. The truth is, that the 40-hour, 5-day work week hails all the way back to the days of Henry Ford. The 40-hour work week has never been proven to generate the most productivity, but it was proven to be more productive than the 48-hour work week that Ford’s workers originally worked. The truth is, even a 40-hour workweek may not create optimal productivity. Managers and executives that step outside the box and find the schedule that works best for them will have the most success getting their employees to do the same and create more opportunities for employees with children to find the schedule that works best for their families.

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