One advantage of having childcare available in the workplace is immediately apparent: convenience. Instead of dropping the kids off at daycare before work – and having to rush out at the end of the day to pick them up (and suffering the disapproving glare of a woman in a macaroni necklace when you’re 15 minutes late) – you can bring the kids right to the office and retrieve them at the end of the day. You’ll not only save time in the car and fuel, but when little Susie develops a raging stomach bug in the middle of the day you can get to her side immediately.
Businesses that offer onsite childcare often have more satisfied, and productive, employees than those that don’t. The idea is that employees who know their kids are being well cared for, and that they can check in on them at any time, are going to be more focused on their work and less likely to leave the company. A study by Children’s Creative Learning Centers found that more than 80 percent of the workers surveyed agreed that knowing that their children were nearby and well cared for made them more productive. And not only does an onsite child care center keep existing employees happy, childcare at work is a powerful recruiting tool, allowing companies to attract top talent who might otherwise be hesitant to take the job due to childcare issues.
According to a 2008 survey by Bright Horizons Family Solutions, onsite childcare is a major factor in employee retention. The survey indicated that those who worked at businesses that offer a place to stash the kiddos while at work are 68 percent more likely to stay with the company for five to nine years. Many parents are reluctant to pull Johnny Junior out of a childcare situation that’s comfortable and consistent, so they stay on at their job until the kids go to school full-time. Increased retention is also attributable to greater employee satisfaction – the CCLC study showed that parents who have access to employer-sponsored daycare feel like they have more work-life balance. Instead of just claiming to support employees, companies who offer childcare actually put their money where their mouths are.
While onsite childcare does present some advantages for employees – and businesses that reap the benefits of more satisfied employees – it has some disadvantages. For one thing, childcare costs money. Simply corralling employees’ offspring into a room and providing some crayons and a DVD isn’t adequate. Businesses with childcare must provide a dedicated space that meets state space, health and safety requirements, and hire staff to manage the center and provide care, all of which costs money.
Another disadvantage to onsite employee childcare is security. When employees at the Discovery Channel headquarters in Washington, D.C., were held hostage by a gunman in 2010, the fact that the building houses an employee daycare presented an additional challenge to the security team and law enforcement trying to defuse the situation. The children had to be the first priority, leaving the terrified adults to face the gunman for a longer period while the children were secured. As that situation demonstrated, having children onsite presents a new security challenge to building security teams; companies need to spend extra time and money on training and security systems to keep employees’ children safe.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.