#086 – In this episode of Inclusion in Progress, we will be exploring all the ways that we can make our workplaces truly family friendly, more accommodating and inclusive spaces for ALL caregivers.
Today we will be delving into the subject of family, how the very definition of family is changing in today’s rapidly evolving world, and how that affects whether or not our employees fall under the caregiver category. We will delve deeply into why EAPs or Employee Assistance Plans need to be updated to include benefits for caregivers, paid leave for different family and caregiving situations, and considering situations such as bereavement, pregnancy and infertility.
One of the questions we tackle often with client partners at Inclusion in Progress is how each of our definitions of family can change depending on our cultural background, upbringing, location or personal values. And it’s our hope that employers and leaders can begin to make space for family and caregiving that go beyond heteronormative roles. Tune into the episode to find out how to make your workplaces truly family friendly for all!
IIP086 How to Create Truly Family Friendly Workplaces (For ALL Caregivers)
Welcome to the Inclusion in Progress podcast where we give you the ideas, actions and insights to help you build more equity at your workplace and in the world at large. I'm your host, Kay Fabella, international expert on diversity, equity and inclusion. A Filipino American living in Spain and your guide and navigating this DEI journey. Having worked with teams at companies such as Philips, the IMF, Red Hat, PepsiCo and more, I know firsthand that the work of inclusion only works when everyone has a seat at the table. Regardless of your personal entry point into this conversation, your race, ethnicity, gender, ability, age, sexual orientation, country of origin, or educational background, we all have a role to play in creating inclusion for all and it starts with us having conversations we need to create the change we wish to see. So let's dive into today's episode.
Hello again, and welcome back. We are now heading into the final stretch of Q1 at the time this episode goes live and whoa, has it flown by. I'm genuinely excited for what April has in store, not just because it will mean warmer weather here in Spain. But also, we've got a full roster of client partnerships with the likes of Red Hat, Instagram, Headspace and more starting this month, and the potential for some in-person work too. Remember those things?
Now, many of these engagements began a few years ago. So we're honored to continue delivering inclusion solutions for clients who've become our friends and our peers. So if you'd like to book a call before we close our client roster for 2022, or learn about how you can work with us in 2023 as we begin to open up slots, head to the link in the show notes to get in touch with our team. If you've been to our digital home at inclusioninprogress.com, you'll see that one of the big ways we shifted our own workflow to focus on our well-being as a company is only taking on 10 client partners per year, which allows us to go wider and deeper with our relationships, while giving our team a sustainable way to deliver the work that we care about. Again, feel free to reach out at the link in the show notes or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a call and learn how we can partner with you this year, and whether or not one of our services or solutions is a fit for your team or organization's needs. We're happy to discuss how our framework can help you to increase talent retention by prioritizing inclusion, wellness and support for workers from across your organization. Now today's episode is the final one of our workplace wellness season. Don't worry, we're still putting out more episodes next month. But this is our first time formatting our content on the podcast this way. And we're really happy that many of you have reached out to say how you're taking these conversations into the workplace, and what you think of the new episodes. Like Maikel, one of our OG fans, who wrote, “you always come through with what is needed to meet the moment we are in Kay.”. Or Angelica, who emailed us to say, “These topics are so timely and necessary. I've taken many of these reflections to my own team and shared the episodes with them, so thank you.”. Now we love receiving feedback like this, and are grateful that you all continue to support our show, as we continue to grow as a company and learn how to provide better resources for you. Now this show really is a labor of love, which we continue to offer as a free resource on top of our day to day client work and our responsibilities. So hearing that these conversations are in fact impacting you and your workplaces really means the world to us. So on behalf of me and the team, Thank You, Salamat, Asante, and Gracias! Now, since today's episode falls during International Women’s Month, I wanted to focus on the topic of Caregiving. Because, historically, women have been the primary caregivers in heteronormative societies and cultures. So when it comes to supporting women at work, it makes sense that many of the conversations that we have around gender equity tend to focus on how to support mothers. But, while important, that reduces the complexity of women's experiences to, say, an easy soundbite, or a one-off benefits package or policy that focuses on what is ultimately a tiny, tiny fraction of the female experience.
As we heard in Episode 85, there are many, oh so many nuances to how women can truly be supported at work. If you haven't already listened to that episode, please check that one out. It's a good one. And we feature some of our favorite practitioners and folks discussing the real issues that face women in the workplace. But back to you. The truth is this: Many of us associate caregiving with family duties. And, yes, it's true that women often hold many of those caregiving responsibilities within nuclear families. As lifespans get longer, it's also true that women are not only caring for children and partners, but also elderly parents as well. So, organizations are absolutely right to provide benefits packages that support women at work, considering the time that they'll need to take off to take care of their dependents. But as demographics shift, as these so-called “non-traditional” families become more common, and more historically marginalized voices come forward, isn't it high time that we revisit the idea of what we define as a “family”? And with remote work and relocation for jobs becoming more common, how many of us actually come from, or live with our so-called “traditional” nuclear families these days anyway? The fact is that when we need to take time off of work to care for a loved one, or a dependent, that person may or may not be related to us by blood. They may be the brothers' child that we adopted after he passed away, or a same sex partner, or a colleague who helped us feel at home when we first landed in our adopted country, or an honorary aunt who raised us, or a long beloved pet, or a dear friend who's like a sister going through IVF treatments or grieving a miscarriage. Emotional labor, grief, and everything in between will show up in any one of the situations I've just mentioned. But none of those situations are considered caregiving, according to our so-called traditional ideas of family, which is again upholding an outdated heteronormative way of viewing families in the workplace, that ultimately undermines everyone's ability to feel seen, safe and supported to do their job effectively. So for today's episode, I want to talk about why we need to revisit this idea of how we define family as organizations, to highlight some definitions of family that we could consider using specific anecdotes and examples, and ideas for benefits that companies can begin to consider to accommodate for the different types of families that we'll be seeing more of in our workplaces. So let's dive in. First, let's look at how we define family, as organizations and why that needs to be updated. Now, as we know much of the conversation about family-friendly workplaces centers around cisgender, heterosexual parents, specifically mothers. Some employers are tuned into moms and dads and occasionally you'll see positive examples of male caregivers highlighted in the workplace. But there's a whole lot of room within the definition of family, and within caregiving, that goes beyond that so-called “traditional” nuclear family. Research has shown that family structures have changed, and that myth of this heteronormative, two parent nuclear family is no longer the norm. Families make many forms including multi-generational, multicultural, blended families, LGBTQ+ families, and chosen or found families. If your goal as an organization is to attract the best talent by touting yourself as a family-friendly workplace, it's clear from the data that this needs to go beyond parenthood, or motherhood and child care. Care could look like taking care of elderly parents, taking care of grown-up children with support needs for their disability, looking after siblings, or being there for your found or chosen family and more. Caring could also look like taking an inclusive lens that goes beyond the binary gender expression of male and female. For example, the experience of trans fem partners or parents. Caring for others should also look beyond holding employees to a specific definition of a nuclear family, so only talking about parents or partners or siblings, particularly in times of grief or emotional distress. For example, those of us who are pet owners, myself included, also have caregiving responsibilities, or those who are immigrant remote workers, also, myself included, have established new definitions of family in our adopted countries. So let's look at a few ways that the legal definitions of familyare changing in different parts of the world, to help give us an idea of how we could start thinking about it more critically as organizations. For example, the NIH or the National Institutes of Health in the United States, has begun to recommend the word “household” as a replacement for family. According to them, using the definition as, quote, “all people living in one household may be erroneous, as on one hand it may include people who do not share kinship, and on another hand it may include those kin members who are temporarily away.” They share that this type of definition fails to identify units that function as families in an economic or social or emotional sense, but do not usually reside in the same household. From a health benefits perspective, although the literature often focuses on family living arrangements, they found that the idea of who belongs and is defined as being a member of a family includes obligations across and between generations, no matter where family members are living. Another example we found in the research was from UNESCO, specifically, a UNESCO report stated that a family is a kinship unit, and that even when its members do not share a common household, that unit may still exist as a social reality. Now, the meaning of the term family, according to them, also depends on whether it's being interpreted in a social or biological, cultural or statistical sense. One researcher there defined the family as a unit of two or more persons united by marriage or blood or adoption or consensual union. In general, consulting a single household or interacting and communicating with each other. Now, because of the multitude of definitions of family, and the changing realities of our current times, they felt the need to redefine family and the common types, and for the purposes of that study of family as a factor in health, and other variables that would be important to us. And at the conclusion of this report, they propose that the following definition of family be put forward. It read, quote, “People related by marriage, birth, consanguinity or legal adoption, who share a common kitchen and financial resources on a regular basis.” Unquote. Now, these are just some ways that the idea of family is shifting on a global scale, which will affect how your employees not just show up in society, but also at work. And it accounts for so many other caregiving roles beyond the stereotypical ideas of what a family should look like. And more likely than not, your benefits packages aren't supporting all people who have caregiving responsibilities. This is where it might be worth it to think critically of ways that employees can define their own family, including things like any person an employee may be responsible for, that they may be supporting financially, or have a significant emotional relationship with. We'll discuss more ideas for this later on in today's episode. Next, let's look at exploring the different definitions of family and how each of them require their own type of caregiving situations, and diving into ways that we've seen companies adapt. So we know that people, and family come in many forms, and nobody knows this better than the people who've been advocating for rights the longest, the LGBTQ+ community, who have been asking for the expansion of the definition of family in society and at work since they were able to have a voice or they were first listened to. Now, let's take a look at one example of how an organization adopted their policy to support their LGBTQ+ employees. Back in 2019, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, or MassMutual, undertook a holistic review of their own benefits packages, which they themselves recognized as being outdated and paternalistic. They partnered with their internal Pride Business Resource Group or BRG, an internal network for their LGBTQ+ employees and their allies. Under this updated benefits plan, employees got up to two weeks paid leave for a seriously ill loved one, and up to 15 days leave after the death of a loved one, and they were all left to define who that loved one is. Their benefits plan went further. Birth parents received 18 weeks of fully paid leave. Non-birth parents, including adoptive parents, received eight weeks of fully paid leave, that could be used all at once or incrementally for up to a year. Finally, MassMutual also began to cover employees' fertility treatments without a medical diagnosis of infertility. They chose to include anyone who wants to have a child in that definition, which ensure that members of the LGBTQ+community, and single parents by choice, received equitable access to fertility benefits when they sought it.
Another example to look at is that of immigrant or cross-cultural workers, who are often far away from their home, culture or community. With our own international backgrounds, our team has borne witness to countless stories of those who've arrived, either by choice or by circumstance, to start new lives in different parts of the world. Stories of the immigrants going from one European country to another, from one hemisphere of the Americas to another, or from one continent to another where the time difference is more than 10 hours between them and their loved ones. The stories of the overseas foreign workers, all too common from my parents' birth country of the Philippines, going abroad to be able to send money back to their families, including their children and elderly relatives. The stories of the first generation immigrant daughters who, carrying the hopes and dreams of her parents, are often left translating many things on their parents behalf, while trying to create a life on her own terms in a country that doesn't always accept her as their own. Each of these stories comes from one person. But each person had a different definition of family or community or kin behind them, who helped them feel sustained and supported to face life. Some were fortunate to find employment and understanding from the companies that bet on their potential and were willing to sponsor them. Most had to claw their way forward through language and cultural barriers, knowing that nothing would be handed to them. I often say to the team that that level of tenacity that an immigrant or a child of immigrant parents has, in addition to their multicultural mindset and their globalperspective, is an invaluable asset to any organization. So I know that creating ways for them to lean on the chosen families that support them through it all is vital to their well-being. What we've learned is that many of the containers that we need to understand one another, to build empathy with one another in organizations, particularly when it comes to the needs of our individual employees, are few and far between in our fast paced world. Sometimes all you need to do is create a container for that zoom out moment with your team. A reset to help check in with one another, and revisit boundaries and existing expectations. It's one of the ways that the team and I at Inclusion in Progress are here to help. Through our signature Pause to Progress workshop, an interactive virtual experience where we help teams find ways to strategize and support their own wellness and resilience at work, while fostering an open conversation about what's necessary for teams to look out for one another, including who and how we show up outside of the workplace. Every workshop experience is different depending on the participants who are there and, of course, the lived experiences. But in past editions we've discussed things such as how to support Black employees and actionable allyship ideas at work, how to foster intersectional solidarity among different marginalized groups, how to help Asian colleagues through rising violence during the pandemic, or non-virtual ways that teams can support colleagues who are caregivers. So if you'd like to learn more about how to book a Pause to Progress workshop to foster inclusion for your remote team members, head to the link in the show notes to get in touch with our team, or email us at email@example.com. Before we close our calendar for the rest of 2022, we'd love to share how we could partner with you to foster inclusion for your team or organization. Finally, let's look at some ideas for benefits that companies can begin to consider, to accommodate for different family types at work. Now, it's no secret that caregivers, particularly working mothers, have been burning the candle at both ends since the start of this pandemic. It's something that the prolific Mita Malik dives into on Episode 75 on this podcast, How to Redesign the Workplace for Working Mothers Post-Pandemico be sure to check out that episode if you haven't already, It's one of our favorites. But as we've seen, working mothers are just one part of the story. To create truly family friendly workplaces, all HR people, DEI and company leaders must fully buy into tackling this problem of caregiver burnout, and work together to identify the challenges that working caregivers face. These pain points can be narrowed down to four categories: flexible work, caregiver leave, family well-being and family care. Now, the pain points for a working caregiver are going to change according to each individual's situation, but the lesson here is that, looking at these four categories, companies need to remember that a family-friendly work environment supports an employee's family related needs both from a professional and personal perspective. The only way to know what each person needs when it comes to flexible work or caregiver leave or family well-being or family care,
is by really sitting down and getting to know each of your individual employees' specific caregiving situations. Ultimately, every company team and employee situation is different. But if you're an organization looking to stay ahead of the curve, you can't rely on “one size fits all” anymore, not if you want to thrive in the future of work. So how do you get a pulse on what will actually benefit your employees? First, seek input from your workforce before designing your benefits packages for caregivers and families. It could start with a simple 2-3 questions survey on how each employee defines family and caregiving, or what they would list as their top three non-work priorities and giving them an exhaustive list to choose from. We've given you just a few ideas in this episode with the different anecdotes and stories we've shared, but feel free to review your latest pulse survey for ways to tailor a questionnaire like this to your organization. Gathering the data on who your employees are, and what and who is important to them outside of work will help guide you in looking at what needs to be tackled first. You can then begin scheduling regular cadences for Employee Focus Groups to discuss specific benefits for their family needs and revisiting your benefits packages once or twice a year to fold in those recommendations for your teams. For example, younger generations may want pet insurance. Older generations may be worried about elder care. Parents of disabled or neurodivergent children want clearer parental leave policies and child-care benefits. With so many different nuances, updating your benefits packages can't be a one and done initiative. In fact, this would be a really great time to loop in some of your existing Employee Resource Groups to inform you on specific needs. Next, depending on your employee population, look to partner with external providers or organizations that can advise you and tailor resources to what your workforce needs. You can look at organizations like Family Friendly Workplaces, like Out and Equal for your LGBTQ+ population, or like Working Families for supporting parents with children with disabilities.. Or you can partner with local organizations that may be more familiar with your specific cultural context or environment. Not only have institutions like these ones been gathering the latest in research and data, they're best positioned to offer insights into the wider market, while supporting you and turning employee input into tangible benefits. For example, while we know remote work and cross-cultural communication at Inclusion in Progress pretty much backwards and forwards, we'll often fold in local providers or subject matter experts into the conversation to help meet our client partners. Or we would refer people on to other firms entirely for their needs, if required. As a People or HR leader, there are already enough things being thrown in front of you every day. We've learned from many of you how hard and challenging the last few years have been. So working with an external specialist not only helps you stay focused on your tasks, but signals trust to your workforce that you've heard their input and you're working with somebody to help keep their best interests top of mind. Revisiting your benefits often is not only great for talent retention, but it also offers something truly unique to job candidates who are considering working for your company, especially if they're hoping to start or raise or support their existing family, however they define it.
So there you have it, those are three things to consider as we try to create family friendly workplaces that cater to all caregivers. We looked at why we need to revisit the idea of how we define family as organizations, what definitions of family we can start considering that have been historically excluded or marginalized in the past, and some concrete ideas for how companies can begin to accommodate for the different types of families we'll be seeing more and more of in our workplaces. Now, today's episode is heavily inspired by employees that we've had the honor of engaging with over the last few years. But the conversation is especially important for leaders and middle managers who have to hold space for those different states of mental, emotional and psychological health of their team members in the workplace at once. As we've learned over the last few years, no man, no woman or anyone in between is an island. Our individual well-being affects how we do our jobs. But our collective well-being is reinforced and strengthened by those who surround us. When we're giving our employees more flexibility in where they work, and when, it improves their experience. But, as we know, it will also continue to require constant iteration, Innovation and Implementation as we navigate these waters of change. Thankfully, our team’s seeing more people-managers and employees alike willingly and openly asking for what they need, sharing what they'd like to see more of in the future of work, including for things like their non-work roles or caregiving duties.
And it's this kind of open dialogue that will help support whether our teams want to stay, whether or not we're able to fully unlock their potential without sacrificing their humanity or ours in the process. Now, there are so many different teams now spanning locations and lived experiences, identities and specific situations than before. So it's easy to feel overwhelmed, which is why at Inclusion in Progress, one of our specialties as a fully remote team spanning countries and cultures, is how we help you to embrace that nuance and humility, partner with you in pursuit of consensus across those differences, and create new ways to respond to the challenges that face us. So if you'd like to learn more about how we can work together, including through our signature Pause to Progress workshop, head to the link in the show notes to get in touch with our team. We've developed long standing partnerships with the likes of Headspace, Instagram and Red Hat and we'd love to discuss how our IIP framework can help your team or organization with a bespoke solution for what you need. Again, head to the link in the show notes or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a call to discuss how we'll be able to partner with you this year. And, as always, if you liked the episode, please share it with other leaders and changemakers who'd benefit from a more inclusive world. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see you next time on Inclusion in Progress.