5 Workplace Changes We’ve Made For Our Working Parents

by Josh Ritchie

There are a lot of working parents in the world. If we’re honest, that isn’t something we thought much about in our early days. When we started we were a small crew of young people, mainly focused on career and after-work happy hours. But as our company has grown and expanded over the last decade, so have our families. Naturally, this has changed the way we look at our work individually—and the way we approach things collectively.

Our company vision is to build a future where everyone can live healthy, fulfilled lives. We think work-life balance is one of the keys to a happy life, but we also know that becoming a parent only makes that more challenging. Thus, in recent years we’ve been taking steps to support C5ers entering this new stage of life.

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Guess who has the true baby bump? ?Surprise #babyshower for our very own C5CA mom to be!

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How We’ve Tried to Make Things Easier for Working Parents

While we can’t provide the level of support to working parents that, say, Sweden does (shoutout to latte papas), we’ve looked for ways to make some of our policies, practices, and work spaces more accommodating for parents, who make up about a quarter of our staff.

Of course, these changes didn’t happen overnight. They were the result of many conversations, suggestions, and considerations. But for the most part, these changes haven’t been particularly disruptive or difficult to implement, which is why we’re sharing them in hopes that other organizations might consider doing the same.

Granted, not every employer has the means or ability to provide these benefits, but we think every organization can make intentional moves to embrace working parents—even in small ways. Here are 5 ways we’ve done so at Column Five.

1) Providing More Flexibility for Work Schedules

You don’t need to be a parent to know that life doesn’t stop just because you’re at work. Balancing your professional obligations and personal needs can be a challenge, which is why our working parents have led the charge for more flexibility in schedules. Whether it’s a mom working part-time for a few months before transitioning back to full-time or a dad who needs to duck out of a meeting to make a baby wellness appointment, we work with C5ers to figure out a schedule that works for everyone. (BTW, this policy extends to all C5ers—not just those of us with kids.)

Of course, this all relies on open, honest communication about expectations and needs. But it allows people a degree of autonomy and empowerment that we think is important. (We also have a rigorous hiring process to ensure we bring on talented and responsible people who can fulfill their commitments without needing to be micromanaged.)

2) Allowing People to Work Remotely

Working parents have to manage a lot, especially when it comes to things like arranging childcare or managing the cost of living. So, in addition to adjusting their schedules, we’re happy to let employees work remotely. Whether someone needs to work from home on Fridays to watch their newborn, or move to a state where they can afford a house to fit their family’s needs, we see our remote policy as a way to help us retain the talent we have. 

Luckily, the nature of our work and the capabilities of technology mean we have the ability to do our work from anywhere. Hence, we have C5ers working all over the country, from Portland to NYC. (Again, this policy extends to our child-free employees too.)

3) Creating Nursing Space for Moms

We’ve moved offices several times and tried to design each to fit our needs. During our latest move, we thought carefully about the design of the physical space, especially for nursing moms.

Not only did we create a space for nursing moms, we made it conveniently close to the kitchen so they wouldn’t have to haul bottles all over the place. While not every organization has this luxury, we feel strongly that creating these physical spaces shows our working moms that they are not just “tolerated,” as has unfortunately been the case for women in many organizations, but are welcome, supported, and truly valued.

4) Providing Parental Leave

In the US, parental leave is a mess. There is no federally guaranteed paid parental leave. Options vary state by state, and it’s up to companies to determine what they’ll provide—if they want to provide anything at all.

In our early days, we couldn’t offer many benefits. (Several of us remember a time when we didn’t even have healthcare.) Luckily, we’ve grown since then and done our best to provide competitive benefits for everything from health insurance to 401Ks. Parental leave is among them. While it isn’t as much as we’d like to offer in an ideal world, we believe providing parental leave is crucial to help working parents. 

5) Talking More About Long-Term Goals

Becoming a parent rearranges priorities, and careers may change accordingly. Someone on a leadership track may want to pull back to devote more time to their family, while others may be inspired to pursue leadership to support their family’s long-term goals.

We want to support our working parents in whatever capacity they need. Thus, we’ve encouraged more open conversations between employees and directors about people’s 5-year plans and future goals. This has been a helpful way to manage expectations on both sides and cultivate a strong working relationship.

The Other Ways We Take Care of Each Other

Being a working parent is tricky business (both personally and professionally), so we’re appreciative of people’s feedback, honesty, and eagerness to help C5 be a more welcoming place for parents. But beyond these “official” company efforts, what we’re most proud of is how our C5ers have cultivated a community to celebrate parenthood, support each other through transitions (whether or not they have kids themselves), and commiserate when needed.

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Jell-O with the CEO.

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From Accountants to Designers, Producers to Directors, our team is always there to support each other—and that’s only become more clear since people started having kids.

We’re especially grateful for:  

  • The Slack channel: Our #parentbods Slack channel (formerly #dadbods) has been a huge support for our working parents, letting them share tips, memes, jokes, anecdotes, and frustrations about child-rearing.
  • The real talk: Parenting can bring up a lot of emotions. You can feel simultaneously isolated and overcrowded, confused and frustrated, guilty and exasperated—all before you even get into the office. Being able to talk with each other about these personal issues is invaluable, whether you’re deciding to stop breastfeeding or thinking about having a second kid.
  • The general empathy: Not to brag but our crew is full of people who are not just talented and kind but empathetic and understanding. Whether or not they’re parents themselves, it’s amazing to receive encouragement and support when you’re struggling through a meeting because you’re running on two hours of sleep. We’ve seen C5ers help our working parents in big and small ways, from handling a client call solo to bringing in treats when we’re working late.  

If anything, parenting has taught us that we’re all on a learning curve. Whether we’re picking up a new skill or figuring out how to swaddle an infant, it’s all about learning to adapt.

We hope the changes we’ve made have helped our working parents’ lives—and we’ll continue to look for new ways to make things easier. We’re also always looking for ways to improve the way we work.

For more behind-the-scenes stuff:

And if you’re curious to work with us yourself, let’s chat about it.  

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