Parent advocate Sarah Johal outlines the steps for making your company truly ‘child-friendly.’
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Today, April 25, is national Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day for 2109. Created 26 years ago by the Ms. Foundation, the event (slightly retooled from its former name Take Our Children to Work Day) is designed for girls and boys ages 8 to 18 to learn new lessons about the workplace, then take those lessons back to school the following day.
The observance “focuses on expanding future opportunities for all our children, in both their work and family lives,” according to the website.
But what if your particular company dismisses the whole idea of welcoming kids into the workplace to observe what Mom and Dad or some other adult in their lives actually does all day? For answers, I turned to Sarah Johal.
Related: Bring Your Child to Work Day Is Too Valuable to Limit to Once a Year
Johal is a mother and marketing professional with experience advocating for parent-friendly programs and activities at high-profile organizations. She’s built brand experiences for Pandora Radio, Lyft and Workday and is the current editor of the weekly newsletter exploring parenthood in media and tech, Underbelly.
In our conversation, Johal recalled her experience three years ago as a marketing manager at Lyft, and the rideshare company’s lack at that time of a parenting employee resource group.
“I had a pretty toxic experience when I returned to work after maternity leave,” Johal began, referring to a previous job. “A few months later, I decided to join Lyft, which seemed to provide a way healthier support system for all workers.”
Even though some women within that organization were pregnant, Johal said, she saw signs that Lyft hadn’t created an inclusive culture for working parents.
Evidence for that statement? “All-hands meetings started at 5:30 pm.,” Johal remembered. “I’d see other parents get ‘stink eyes’ when they had to bring their kids in for the day, but no one batted an eye when a colleague brought in their dog.”
Ever the workplace volunteer, Johal decided to turn her pain into progress and voluntarily formed an employee resource group, or ERG, for parents and caregivers within the company.
Related: To Raise Exceptional Children, Teach Them These 7 Values
She’d assumed the organization would be concerned enough to at least listen to the needs and perspectives of caregiver employees. But working parents at Lyft at the time had no ERG to call home.
One reason might have been Lyft’s then still-recent startup status. (It was founded in 2012.). But support for working parents was one goal that needed to be accommodated, Johal told me. She cited the value for both the organization and the employees who join ERGs, illustrated in a study by the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion.
“I also wanted to ensure no one else experienced biases — conscious or unconscious — simply because of their parent identity and ways of working,” Johal said. Under the branding #UpLyft, Lyft had already adopted a framework for creating ERGs, she said. At the time, the company also had other diversity and inclusion resource groups such as #UpLyftWomen for women in tech.
Sarah Johal and her daughter
Image Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Johal
So Johal made her move; she founded #UpLyftParents in February 2016, and under her leadership, the company hosted its first “Take Our Kids to Work Day” across all domestic Lyft offices and changed its paid leave policy for all employees. Johal transitioned from Lyft to the marketing company Workday early last year, but Lyft still benefited from the effects of her hard work after her departure.
Just two months later, Lyft ranked 12th on Father.ly’s “Best Places for Dads” to work. Though Johal and her ERG corrected the course of operations at Lyft, the group never would have happened had she not striven for incremental, quick wins. “Take Our Kids to Work Day” (Lyft’s name for the event) was one of those wins.
Google, Facebook and Visa are just a few of the organizations that have received praise from their employees and the media for their Take Your Child To Work Day activities. Unfortunately, however, due to a lack of proper event planning, budget or liability fears, many companies don’t encourage employees to bring their children into the workplace n– even just for one day.
This year ‘s observance has the theme “Workforce Development for All.” And in this regard, Johal offers advice to organizations on how they can explore launching a local observance of their own in just under three weeks and develop inspiration and skill sets for tomorrow’s leaders. The tips she offers include:
Communication is key.
“Regardless if your company only has two parents or 2,000, it’s worth expressing how your company embraces working families,” Johal says.
For companies, communicating that employees can bring their children in for the day is key. Employees, meanwhile, should remember to express their interest in that event to their company’s human resources department or employee resource group, as one or both may already have programming plans. If not, employees can volunteer to serve as consultants, volunteer for various tasks and provide additional programming.
Assess the landscape.
“Audit [whether] it makes sense to celebrate the actual national holiday in April, or if it’s easier to execute in summer when more kids can likely visit on a weekday,” Johal advises, noting some parents’ reluctance to take their children out of school.
Also, if the first year’s celebration is limited just to a communique to employees, assess participation levels and feedback, determining if a larger, grander event would be well received.
Money isn’t everything.
“Zero-budget ideas are endless,” Johal says. One could be launching your organization’s first official parents’ ERG to mark the date, she says. Another could be a parent-buddy mentorship program to foster relationships between non-caregivers and parents. A third could involve posting a group selfie with leadership on your social handles.
Simply participate and share your authentic stories (internally and externally)! Just remember to use release forms for families to approve the use of their likeness and especially that of their minor-age children for any captured content.
Consider what innovative programming looks like for all ages.
“If you have the budget, have a variety of programming that expresses your core values,” Johal says. “At Lyft, we created career development and time-management panels for parents with newborns, led by executive sponsors. For older kids, we hosted themed Lego engineering workshops where families could design and build their visions of ‘future cities’ and autonomous car designs.
“We also ensured temporary onsite child care was available in case parents needed to step away for an important meeting or phone call, and still enjoy the celebration.”
Related: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Explaining Your Job to Your Kids
As to what benefits might result through steps like those Johal advises, worker satisfaction might be one, and increased productivity, another. Then, increased employee retention might be a third — geared to giving the phrase “child-friendly” new meaning.