Weekly Editorial

Onsite Childcare Could Help Attract Workers Back to the Office

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • July 8, 2024

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As I continue to study the work from home trends and hybrid work, I’m beginning to realize that most workers don’t hate the office, they just face circumstances where getting there is a hassle. They might have a long, painful commute. Or like many workers, they face trouble finding adequate childcare.

The United States is facing a growing child care crisis. According to “The Hill,” its economic impact has more than doubled since 2018, rising to a staggering $122 billion annually in lost earnings, productivity and revenue. Meanwhile, the crisis itself threatens the future of the U.S.’s youngest minds and is hindering employment and educational advancement of the American workforce.

The childcare crisis is being caused by three interrelated challenges: affordability, accessibility and quality of care. According to the report in “The Hill,” for infants, the average cost of center-based child care — or care provided in non-residential, commercial buildings — is more than in-state, public college tuition in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Data from ChildCare Aware show that in 2021, the average national price of child care was around $10,600 each year. Meanwhile, those in need of child care services are often young couples who may not have that much disposable income to spend.

The problem with the childcare crisis is similar to that of the healthcare crisis — it is one of apathy. Some of us with good insurance don’t think of healthcare as a problem or worry about how it is affecting others. Those without children to care for or those like me whose children are grown might not think of childcare as a problem because we mistakenly believe it is not directly affecting us.

So why aren’t we designing childcare centers into every office we build? Can you imagine the draw of an office that provides childcare for its employees? In a study from the Journal of Managerial Psychology, employee performance was found to be higher, and absenteeism lower, among employees with access to onsite child care.

Good companies are already doing it. About a quarter of the “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For” provide onsite child care, a number that continues to climb. While nearly 50% of full-time employed women do not return to work after having their first child, many companies with onsite child care see a dramatic increase in post-maternity leave returns. Add to that the fact that companies that provide child care see a 60% decline in job turnover.

Adding an onsite childcare center has some cons. Parents might be distracted by having their children so close to them and might lose the ability to focus. Adding a nice childcare center is definitely an added cost. Additional bathrooms, kitchen facilities and emergency equipment is needed along with a qualified staff to run it. There are liability issues as well since the company would be liable for every child in the building.

Still, can you imagine a better draw to the office for a working family? An onsite childcare center would also be an incredible tool to attract and retain workers as well.

Many parents find themselves having to choose between work and child care. In a 2023 poll, more than a quarter of respondents with children under 6 said they or a family member had to miss work because of child care issues. Nearly 6 in 10 participants who aren’t working or only working part time said they’d work full time if they had access to quality, affordable child care.

Simply put, companies that want to draw workers back to the office should start designing onsite childcare in their buildings. It is a powerful fix to help workers return to the office and one that our industry can help make happen.

 

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