If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s the importance of family. When we were staying home to stay healthy, that time allowed us to reconnect with our families and re-evaluate what really matters. This also gave many employers a chance to analyze how they could offer additional support to their team members and their families.
Many employers had to wrestle with whether to stay completely remote, requesting their team to return to the office full time, or to allow a hybrid environment. For those who leaned more towards the hybrid option, they also had to consider what this would mean for their team members with children or relatives who relied on them for care, and all the ways they could offer support to the team.
One local company was ahead of the curve in this regard. The team with Albuquerque Plumbing Heating & Cooling has offered a family friendly environment in their office for quite some time. Co-owner/co-founder, Vanessa Gonzales, detailed some of the ways they have been able to support their team over the years, as she offers ideas for other businesses in search of ideas to support their team.
Why have you decided to have subsidized or on-site child/dependent care?
VANESSA GONZALES: We partnered at one point in time with a childcare provider. It was a daycare center that was literally down the street from our shop to help get discounted rates for our team’s kids. As the kids got older, we figured out how to pivot and what we could do.
We work with the team’s schedules, and we allow them to bring their kids with them to work. Usually after school we have a lot of kiddos that are working on homework and then they go to the on-site gym, and they play because it’s important to make sure you’re taking care of the entire team member, not just the part that shows up for work. Those kiddos are the reason they continue to show up for work. The more you take care of the entire team member and take care of the family, the more they will take care of the customers and the more the business is taken care of.
How does this family friendly workplace policy contribute to your business success?
VANESSA: As previously mentioned, treating the team member like a complete person and not just a portion of a person, it does something crazy. I can say I know what it’s like not to do that because in the beginning we didn’t do that. We were more focused on the numbers, we were more focused on what we needed to do, how much money we needed to generate, all of that. Then we were faced with some tough questions “Why are we having a hard time keeping people? Why does everyone seem so angry and cranky?” Well, because we were only thinking of them, not their family, that they were having to get up and leave because they were on-call. Not the long hours they were working because they were working late because it was changeover season. Then once we started to incorporate the entire person and we looked at extending benefits, we looked at adding more PTO, our birthday pay. You know, allowing them to bring their kiddos in and even their pets in, it did something. Something changed. The entire culture changed. Our customer base changed. I know that sounds weird, but it changed. And it changed for the better. We started attracting more of the customers we wanted. The lifetime customer, not just the ones who were “calling everybody in the phone book and whoever gets there first gets the job.” The quality of our team members improved, our customers improved and, so, by default, the business improved. Anytime you put your focus on your people, and when I say your people, I’m not talking about your customers. I’m talking about your team. We very specifically choose the word “team” because together we are a team. We work and succeed together.
What has been the biggest return on the investment you have seen after implementing your childcare policies? Turnover? Absenteeism? Productivity?
VANESSA: When you take care and invite the entire family to be part of the team, it’s something different. The entire family gets invested in the business, the kids get invested in the business, the kids see what it’s like to work hard. They now can quantify what a paycheck brings and what it should bring. And it’s not just about the dollars and cents on that check, or direct deposit, it’s about how else are they being fulfilled. Are they given volunteer opportunities? Are they giving back to the community? Are they allowing kiddos to come into the office? Even the fur babies because they’re important too. We’ve seen a huge boost in morale. We’ve seen a lot of people coming, and specifically seeking us out because of the benefits that we do offer and encouraging people to stay home when they’re sick, encouraging people when a family member is sick. Take the time to take care of them because let’s be honest; if your family is sick and they’re home, you’re not here. Your body may be here, but it’s going to be like a diet version of that team member. Looks like that team member, seems like that team member, but it’s just not the same. And it’s because that person’s mind is where it needs to be – at home. And so, just let the entire person be at home. Let them focus on what they need to focus on, and they will come back, and they will be stronger and better because of that. So, that’s the most important piece. You should never do something for your team with the expectation of a financial gain because if you’re doing it for those reasons, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
Please tell us about your breastfeeding/lactation support policies.
VANESSA: I was a breastfeeding mama, so it holds a special place in my heart. Not everybody wants to or chooses to breastfeed. And that’s cool. Just like, not everybody is a vegan. That’s okay. Whatever your path is, should you decide to breastfeed at Albuquerque Plumbing, we talk to the mother and find out what is going to make that mother most comfortable. Is it a private station close to their office? Is it a completely separate area where they might have to walk a little bit further? We talk to them. We have completely manufactured areas for moms to be able to pump whenever they need to.
We want the mom to be happy. We want her to feel like she’s fulfilling what she needs to do because she’s doing something that is truly important for her child. And if her goal is to go two years breastfeeding, awesome. We’re going to make sure all of the supports that are needed for healthy breastfeeding are available.
What advice do you have for other businesses wanting to implement employer subsidized or on-site childcare?
VANESSA: The best thing I could say is you cannot be rigid. You cannot try and shove into a box. As soon as you do that, it will fall apart. Allow the team to have a play area in their office, for toys to be in the office. Play Dough, trucks, baby dolls, whatever you want. You can start with coloring books and crayons or with movies that play on an office computer or a TV. It’s baby steps. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It may cost some time but in the long run, it’s going to add even more value to the entire company and the entire business. But before starting small, take a look at your culture and your environment and make sure it’s appropriate for children because you want to protect our future generation and you want to make sure that it’s an environment that they will thrive in.
These are just a few of the ways that employers can offer more support to their team members. With the work environment seeing change, business owners can brainstorm what they can do to help their team so they can be their best productive selves. In turn, their business, their community, their customers and the team members themselves, will reap the benefits.
Marketing Assistant/Communications Editor
A native of southern Ohio, Laura Smith moved to Albuquerque as a child with her family. She’s the youngest of three children and the only daughter. During her adolescence, she developed a love of writing and pursued any opportunity to showcase that passion.
Upon entering college at the University of New Mexico, she knew she wanted to earn her bachelor’s degree in an area that would allow her to continue writing. While attending the University of New Mexico, she decided to work towards her bachelor’s degree with a double major in Print Journalism and German, which she received in 2008.
After joining Albuquerque Plumbing Heating & Cooling, she quickly learned she was working for the right company and with the right people. Her writing skills were discovered immediately by her fellow team members and those skills have helped her capture the company’s message and to share it with the community.
Laura has been published in multiple publications in the Albuquerque metro area and currently writes weekly blogs for Albuquerque Plumbing that feature topics varying anything from home service tips to family friendly activities.
When she’s not working from home or the office, Laura enjoys spending her time with her 5-year-old son, family and friends, watching movies, finding ways to decorate her new home and experimenting with new recipes.