Picture this: It’s 2025. An employee kisses her children goodbye at the daycare, drops “Wolfie” off at the dog-sitter and settles her parent into a sunny corner in the seniors’ centre before heading to the office. Nothing revolutionary; this is the morning routine for a lot of people. Now, imagine if all of this existed on the ground floor of your company.

This vision of the future was inspired by a conversation I had with a colleague. Most employees are productive, committed, ambitious and actively seeking career growth in addition to finding the perfect organizational fit for them. They are also balancing children, aging parents and pet care. We are told we can have it all, but juggling multiple personal commitments and keeping up with all these demands often leads to decreased focus, heightened stress, increased time out of the office and reduced productivity, which can potentially result in physical and mental health issues.

What care benefits do employees really want?

In HR, we actively seek feedback from employees on what benefits they want. Then we strive to provide these benefits to them within the budget we have. Although we offer a comprehensive suite of benefits, from extended health to RSPs, we all want to offer something more. This is an opportunity to heighten the competitive advantage of the employer who recognizes and starts to offer the close-to-home care benefits described below.

The global workforce and the aging population

Today’s workforce is willing to relocate for the right opportunity and lifestyle. These globally minded and globally active workers are often leaving behind aging parents and grandparents. Alternatively, as families are scattered around the world, one sibling typically lives near the parents, and through locational necessity, they become the main caregiver as parental health declines. The lifeline of having a seniors’ centre at the workplace would immediately help to alleviate a huge personal stressor. In this scenario, employees and their children have the option of interacting with their parents and their grandparents, thus benefiting both parties.

Onsite care benefits for dependents

Companies are considering care benefits for their employees’ dependents, such as on-site childcare, onsite pet care, pet-care vouchers, and discounted pet insurance. As an example, for employees who have a furry friend, the average cost of a 30-minute walk for a dog in Vancouver is $30 for 40 minutes. Most of us work at least eight hours a day, five days a week, working out to a weekly expense of $150 per week. A person could do doggie daycare, which also involves commuting time. I remember looking into this when my son was 11. His childcare was cheaper than the dog’s petcare! With a pet-sitter onsite, employees could walk their dogs during lunch hour, returning to work refreshed and energized. They’d also benefit from positive endorphins, thanks to adoration from their furry friends.

This all may seem beyond the means of a typical employer. However, it could make financial sense in the long run. As new office buildings start to incorporate this model, companies could utilize the facilities to support their employees — which would offer their organization a competitive advantage.

What care benefits does David Suzuki Foundation offer? 

As well as our standard four-day work week, employees can also choose to work a part-time schedule of two or three days a week. We also empower employees to work remotely, depending on their position and responsibilities. Those who live outside of the city, in communities such as Squamish or Gibsons, can elect to work one day a week from home. All staff can occasionally work from home to complete a project that requires focus rather than collaboration or to accommodate tasks such as waiting for a delivery. Additionally, these options mirror our environmental values as they reduce the employee’s daily commute.

Because we have offices across Canada, we are able to accommodate working from another location temporarily or permanently, depending on circumstances. Employees can also adjust their working day to start earlier or later to accommodate daycare and school drop-offs and pick-ups. Being able to collect your children and spend time with them in the afternoon and then go online again later in the evening when they are in bed assists in maintaining that delicate balance of work and personal commitments.

We also recognize that a dependent can be a child, partner or parent. Our employees don’t have to pretend to be sick themselves to look after someone else. We supplement these policies with unpaid leave, compassionate leave, and short- and long-term disability, so the first priority can be the family and health rather than the job and financial security.

The way of the future 

I am convinced the three-pronged model described above is the way of the future, but as employers, we can’t afford to wait. We can’t ignore this problem any longer. We need to start thinking about how all of these demands are affecting our employees now. We have to implement flexible care benefit options now to help staff with the numerous personal obligations they are struggling to fulfill.

About Catherine Gordon

Catherine leads initiatives to ensure that our client, the David Suzuki Foundation, has the people and roles it needs to achieve its goals. Their employees are highly motivated, talented and professional individuals who deserve the organization’s support to thrive. Catherine works to articulate that support through a talent-management strategy that is aligned with the organization’s long-term direction.

Originally from Northern Ireland, Catherine moved to London, U.K., after graduation and then to Vancouver in 2005. She has worked in an HR capacity in numerous sectors and organizations throughout her career, which has included law firms, charity, technology and a regulatory body before joining the David Suzuki Foundation. She is a lifelong learner and currently holds the CHRP designation, a Strategic HR Practices certificate from Cornell University, a Certificate from Queens University on Leading a Mentally Healthy Workplace, is a Certified Prepare Training Instructor and has completed a Leadership and Inclusion Certificate through Centennial College.

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