The Business (and Human) Case for “Returnity”

Why a savvy approach to "returnity" is critical for everyone.

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Ask any mom what got her through the trying days of having a newborn, and she’ll likely say the support of other moms. Yes, sleep deprivation loves company. And the importance of the mom community, especially for us new moms, has gotten more attention recently – both in the news and your Netflix queue. (And dads, we’re hearing more and more that you benefit from this camaraderie, too.)

What doesn’t get as much attention? The support that working parents need when returning to the office after those tiresome initial weeks or months home with a new baby.

Becoming a parent is a drastic life change; going back to work after becoming a parent can be an equally staggering transition.

Some employers recognize the significance of this life change and have responded with return-to-work (“returnity”) policies that acknowledge the needs of new parents. There are many ways to approach returnity, but below are some examples I’ve seen (and many of these would cost businesses almost nothing to implement).

  • Arranging a gradual re-entry: employees may arrange to come back on a reduced schedule and ramp back up to full time (or however much they were previously working).
  • Offering remote working options: employers may permit employees to work some or all days from home. In 2019, arranging remote working options should be a no-brainer, but it may be more or less feasible depending on one’s job.
  • Fostering peer-to-peer support: just as new parents support one another when home with a new baby, peer support from other working parents can be invaluable when returning to work.
  • Helping with childcare: some organizations provide the Bright Horizons Back-Up Care Advantage Program (BUCA), which provides qualified and vetted caregivers to an employee’s home when a regular caregiver is sick or otherwise unavailable.
  • And more

Sounds nice, right? Here’s the best part: returnity policies are usually a win-win.

Yes, return-to-work support is vitally important to working parents on a human level, but there’s also a business case to be made; these policies are linked to higher retention, a more collaborative culture, and more focused and engaged employees.

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, knowing the advantages businesses see when they offer paid parental leave (i.e., reputational benefits, competitive edge in recruitment, higher employee productivity and retention).

Clearly, employees value companies that support them in their journeys to parenthood, and they’ll respond in kind with loyalty and engagement.

For me, personally, I feel fortunate to be working for a company where the importance of parental leave is recognized, and a supportive returnity is offered. But I know I may be an outlier in this respect.

And even in my fortunate situation, I won’t pretend that being a working parent is easy; it certainly has its challenges.

As a nursing mom, I find balancing meetings and deadlines with my pumping schedule to be a constant juggling act; wrapping up a day’s work to make it home in time for an infant’s early bedtime can be tough; and, of course, there’s the (ongoing) exhaustion factor.

Good parental leave and returnity policies will never solve these challenges. Nor were they meant to.

Rather, by offering these policies, businesses both acknowledge and embrace their employees’ life choices. They help to ease the monumental transition of becoming a parent, and then a working parent. They set their parent employees up for success instead of failure.

And they get a happier, more productive, and loyal workforce in return.

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