If family ranks high on your list of priorities, your life will run much smoother if you work for a company that is family friendly. But definitions vary: some companies just provide the bare-minimum requirements (like unpaid time off for having a baby), while others go above and beyond to make sure employees have a better work/life balance.
Here are a few signs that the company you're considering working for skews toward being more family friendly:
1. On-site childcare. Providing on-site childcare for employees is a win-win for most companies. It means their staff is more likely to work productively when they know their children are close by. Employers who offer childcare are hard-to-find gems, but imagine being able to stop in and check on your child on your lunch break. This is especially appealing to parents who have recently had a child and re-entered the workforce, which can be a difficult transition.
2. Breast-pumping facilities. By law, most employers are required to provide some private place and time for women to express breast milk, but for many offices, that simply means an empty office. Some companies designate special rooms for this purpose, equipped with storage for breast pumps and refrigerators to store breast milk.
3. The company offers paid parental leave. Because the law doesn't require employees to pay for maternity or paternity leave, many companies don't pay for that time off. But some companies do. You're entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but many companies will offer part of that time as paid, and fathers are now eligible to take the time off as well.
4. The company offers a flexible work situation. While this isn't always about family, being able to work part-time or from home a portion of the time certainly makes for a better work/life balance for many people. Companies that understand this tend to be rated more highly on Best Workplaces lists.
5. Having a baby won't keep you from being promoted. No company would dare admit that parenthood might put a damper on a promotion, but it's pretty apparent if you look at who's serving in executive roles. If you're able to talk to women who work in the company, ask what the employer's policy seems to be about promoting women who value their families.
6. The insurance plan actually covers what your family needs. Employers realize that insurance is a competitive play when trying to attract talent, but still some plans are better than others. If the insurance plan requires little payment from you for the premium and has a modest co-pay for regularly scheduled physician services, it's a valuable benefit.
7. Work/life balance isn't just a catchphrase. It's one thing to say you value work/life balance for employees, but it's another thing to actually prove it. Get a sense of what the company's values are by speaking to employees, and see how people act on the job.
While working for a family-friendly company isn't always a necessity, or even a possibility, you can be picky about the company you choose. Keep your eyes open and ask questions in your interview to see where a company stands on these issues.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.