Oct 9, 2014

How Businesses Can Support Early Childhood

Jan (Blittersdorf) Blomstrann is the chairwoman and CEO of Renewable NRG Systems, a manufacturer of decision support tools for the utility-scale renewable energy industry. She joined the company in 1987 and helped build a global organization that now serves more than 150 countries around the world. Prior to becoming chairwoman and CEO, Blomstrann served in various roles as Renewable NRG Systems’ president, vice president, and CFO—driving the creation of the company’s financial systems, unique compensation package, and hiring and leadership development programs. Her focus on workplace excellence and sustainability has created a vibrant organization recognized by the Wall Street Journal, Best Places to Work in Vermont, the Vermont Governor’s Office, and the U.S. Green Building Council (for its two LEED Gold buildings).

How Businesses Can Support Early Childhood

Ensuring every child has a high-quality early experience paired with Vermont’s quality of life is a winning combination as we compete in today’s market.

Most of our employees who have babies choose to eventually return to their careers at Renewable NRG Systems, rather than permanently stay home. They value their careers, and want to be able to have both meaningful work and a family.

We know from a recent Census Bureau report that 72% of Vermont children under the age of 6 have all parents in the workforce. These parents rely on care outside of the home for their children for up to 40 hours a week. Making sure those working parents can provide quality early experiences for their children helps attract and retain skilled workers and increases their productivity.

I know from my own experience as a mother that it’s tough to be a working parent. I learned early on that it’s necessary to find a balance between work and family—and what that requires. I also know that the phase of life when we have very young children is a relatively short period of time for most people. For all of these reasons, it’s important to me to support my employees who have young children. 

I believe that work is one element of a happy life. People come to work to do something meaningful. Having a happy family is another element. Work and family are not mutually exclusive. To find satisfaction in both of these aspects of life, there must be a balance between the two.

At Renewable NRG Systems, we see the value in having happy employees. People who are rested and relaxed do the best work and are the most productive. And of course, they’re the most enjoyable to collaborate with.

That’s why we’ve established policies that support the needs of our employees who have families—that allow them to find that balance. Some of those policies are:

  1. We aim to be flexible about workday schedules. With manager approval, employees have the option to adjust their start and end times to help balance work and family demands. For example, an employee may choose to come to work earlier so they can leave earlier to pick up a child from school. This doesn’t mean that we expect our people to be less productive—we maintain high standards for all employees. We simply believe that offering flexibility, where possible, leads to happier employees and higher productivity.
  2. We offer combined time off. Rather than dictating how people must use their days off, we allow them to choose what they want to use those days for. This gives parents who have sick children or a challenging child care situation more flexibility.
  3. We give all employees who are new parents—male and female—two additional weeks of paid time off to use when the new baby arrives.
  4. We have a lactation room in our office building.
    Several years ago, a few mothers asked if they could convert an old closet into a cozy lactation room, and we supported their efforts. Nursing mothers now have a private space at work that they can access any time.
  5. We offer exercise facilities on site. We recognize it can be difficult to find time to exercise when juggling work and family demands. Having exercise equipment at work gives our employees more opportunity to stay fit and maintain their mental and physical health.

A Personal Story

A few years ago, a single mom took advantage of our flexible workday hours to utilize the only child care option available to her: her own mother’s help. She would arrive at work at 4:30 AM, and leave at noon. This allowed her to take advantage of her mother’s ability to watch the baby during the first half of the day. This was the only way this single mom could retain her job and provide a high-quality early experience for her baby, and she told me how grateful she was for that policy.

It’s important to us at Renewable NRG to support that desire. Children are the next generation workforce. Many of our current employees were babies when I started at Renewable NRG 33 years ago, and I recognize the direct correlation between early childhood and our economic prosperity. The experiences children have in the earliest years shape who they are as adults. That’s why I support giving all of our children a strong start. 

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