Helping Parents Succeed at Home and Work: From Ergonomic Chairs to School Stackables

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“For the love of all things beautiful and Holy, get your shoes on and get in the car. We’re going to be late!”

Ever utter those words? Anyone with middle schoolers knows what kind of stress can be created getting out the door and to work on any given morning—and it certainly doesn’t end when you walk into your workplace.

On top of the typical workplace stressors (deadlines, more work than time, the excitement of growth, quarterly reports, etc.), working parents contend with things like phone calls from the school or an errand run at lunch to get supplies for a birthday party or bake sale. I know how this pressure feels directly (as a single parent) and indirectly as HR Lead here at rTraction Canada, Inc.: a company with our people’s best in mind.

Homework, sports, birthday parties, bullies, sickness, concerts and performances quickly fill up the space in our working-families’ calendars. These are all important events in our children’s lives. Times they need us (or someone who knows them well enough to report back the scrapbook details)… but we can’t be there for all of them.

Some parents tackle this challenge by splitting time/calendars between the two of them, others have grandparents to fill the gaps. And if it’s just you… well, you suck it up and ask your child as many questions as possible (laced with parental guilt for not actually being there) to work your way through another day, one event at a time.

“Rise. Show Up. Shine.”

At rTraction Canada, Inc., we have the great fortune to keep those missed moments to a minimum. Driven by a strong set of values, we have a manifesto to help us remember, daily, what matters. One of the first lines of that manifesto reminds us that we “Work for people over paycheques”… and those people include our families.

  • We allow for flexible work space and time. If a parent needs to stay home to keep a watchful eye on their sick child, we maintain an online channel to allow work to happen. We use Slack for team communication, and since all our data is in the cloud, everyone has access to what they need wherever they access it from.

“Be both teacher and student.”

Growing family life is a big reality for our co-founders and others who steer our company. They each role model active parenting behaviours, participate in cheering at track meets, show up for Dad Day (or Mom Day) events at school and guide youth through community organizations. They provide the same opportunity to our entire team. I probably don’t need to point out that this kind of balance is not very common in corporate circles.

  • We dedicate three business days (of company time) a year to each employee who would like to volunteer in the community. As a team, we look for events where we can bring our kids to experience community work. We have planted trees and supported our neighbourhood fire station in their annual car wash. Fun for all!

“Trust that those around you will break your fall.”

Yes, it’s nice to be able to duck out to the school gymnasium and get the front row of miniature plastic chairs (and yes, you really have grown that much since the last time you sat in one). Beyond simply having time off for the big events, the parents among us have the gift of balance, with the ability to bring kids to work with them when they need to, work from home when they need to or leverage flex hours to accommodate for day cares, shift work or medical needs. Infants are fed as they require, and moms are encouraged to be comfortable.

  • It isn’t uncommon for “School Play” or “Track n Field” or “Christmas Concert” to be listed in our team’s calendars. We step out to support our kids and come back to work. Just as we make space for doctor’s appointments and license renewals, we make time for our kids. We do expect people to manage their to-do lists accordingly and deliver on-time lines. Ultimately, we hire people who value this flexibility. We trust they will show their appreciation by balancing their time away with productivity outside the regular calendar, too.

“Revel in Your Craft, Rejoice in Your Play.”

As a Canadian employer, we honour the parental leave afforded by our government (of course). We also work with our new parents to find ways to help them balance their roles with their work lives, whether that’s offering flex hours to allow for mid-day family breaks or allowing dads a bit more time than they might typically get to bond with baby. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed a baby-holding session while one of our new moms had a meeting with auditors (We love babies! Bring the babies!), shared all the colouring objects I could find in my desk to accommodate for an active preschooler AND allowed my desk to serve as a theatre set. I really enjoyed it. There was fun being had and it infected the air.

  • You will often come across kids at our office, the London Roundhouse. It’s important for kids to see what work looks like. Allowing for space (couches in our upper work / social space, a table in the kitchen big enough to allow for snacks and electronic devices for more than one kid) lets our youngsters know where they can be in an adult world. Having a couple iPads available for play or a box of LEGOs available is helpful. Quiet play is required, though, to keep disruption in check. Ultimately, parents are responsible for their children and should be keeping an eye on what they’re doing. It’s not a daycare, but an option to bridge the gaps some parents need help with.

We are fortunate indeed—but not everyone gets this space for families and work. A study that was conducted in the U.S. and shared over at Fatherly.com states that 77 percent of U.S. employees are uncomfortable discussing family matters at work. Given the support we provide for our team, I was shocked this would be the case. Concerned, I called an open meeting to check in with the parents (and would-be parents) in our crowd. I wanted — needed — to make sure everyone felt as comfortable as I did in meeting their family needs. I was promptly assured and delighted by their feedback.

“Friends, this workplace is awesomely family friendly. Our daycare situation got messed up, and [we] have been able to pick up our daughter from school and work from home for the last couple hours in the day, until daycare gets back to normal. You wouldn’t get this from any other company.” – Senior Developer

“Bonus: My kids WANT to come here, to see their friends [other kids who come regularly].”
– Relationship Manager (about after-school time spent at our workplace while Dad finishes up his day).

“I’m just home from watching the kids at their school track and field day. It’s the first time I’ve been able to get to it. Part of my pride working for this family-friendly company is that I can go and do this. Part of my pride is that my children were really happy to see me show up.”
– from a personal blog post by the author of this article.

Ultimately, these influences in our employees’ lives are critical for their personal success and wellness. We expect to have happy team members, productive community partners and proud parents of all kinds in our fold, and we’re willing to support that.

“Aspirations dream them. Game changers be them.”

P.S. Incidentally, we make the same accommodations for families with “fur-babies.” Vet appointments, recovery times, walking lunches or office visits are all welcomed and covered graciously in our Pet Friendly policy.

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As rTraction’s HR Alchemist, Jennifer Murray works to bring out the best in our people and our company. Intrinsically supportive, fiercely devoted to authenticity (and realizing human potential) she can be found in conversation with our team in the kitchen or in the mezzanine-level perch (which she refers to as the “nest”), where she hangs her office mom hat and keeps an upper level perspective. An entrepreneurial spirit, she values the difference between large corporations and smaller, stakeholder-driven business… which is why she’s happy to be in her seventh year with rTraction Canada, Inc. Two kids, various visiting dogs, a lovely home and keeping (relatively) fit round out this woman’s bodacious life.

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