Balancing a career with family life isn’t always so easy, let alone, doing that with children. But there’s one company leading the way allowing their employees to be parents at work: Patagonia.
Patagonia, the international outdoor retail company, which has been around for 33 years, offers in-house child care for its employees. And even through difficult economic times, the program has been left intact.
“There is this understanding that children are a part of life, and a part of work,” said Dean Carter, head of human resources and insurance services at Patagonia.
The company believes offering this kind of service to employees is an investment that has paid off.
“We have 100 percent of our moms return to work after [maternity] leave," Carter said.
And Patagonia’s model is rare — on-site subsidized childcare in the U.S. dropped from nine percent in 1996 to just two percent in 2016.
"Often what you'll find in the market place is that people understand that something can be positive but they don't have the tools in terms of how to implement it,” says Victoria Budson of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Employees like Susan Welbourn, who’s been with Patagonia from its earliest years, see the company’s childcare program as a lifesaver.
“It allowed me to not worry about where my kids were when I was busy,” said Welbourn. “It’s kind of like an extension of the family.”
Even working dads like Hans Cole, an employee at Patagonia for eight years in the environmental department, and whose son attends the childcare center, welcome the relief that in-house child care brings.
“My office is just about 100 feet away from the childcare center,” said Cole. “So I can literally look out my window and see him playing out in the playground here."
In an age where the cost of childcare continues to soar, companies like Patagonia are paving the way for other companies to follow suit.
“It allows me to excel in my job,” said Jenna Johnson, a senior director at the company. “But it also allows me to excel in my life, really.”