Parents find family and work balance in Burnaby

Employment and parenthood make for a difficult balancing act.

They are often at odds – child-care schedules, work schedules and the time commitment to both. But some local businesses are working with parents to make that balance more manageable.

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Kim Yuen was lucky enough to build a career with a company willing to help her achieve “work-life integration,” she told the NOW.

She was posting an ad on Craigslist for her husband’s company, while she was taking time off with her children, when she saw a job close to her children’s school.

“My boss is so empathetic to working women and our need to feel relevant and have challenging work and to also appreciate our family commitment,” she said.  “So he clearly put that on the post, and I thought, oh my gosh, that’s perfect.”

Veer Business Advisors Ltd. is a business transition advisory firm focused on business exits. Yuen, who has a background in management consulting, is a business adviser with the company.

“We have a philosophy of results matter more than time in the office,” she said.

They need to be in the office for team and client meetings, but otherwise, they can work from home or wherever they wish, Yuen explained.

They also have a digital workplace, as well as a focus on employee emotional wellness and physical health.

The focus on work-life integration is there for all employees, not just working mothers, Yuen pointed out.

“We like to see it as accessing talent because myself and my co-workers, we have a lot to offer, and businesses and entrepreneurs like my boss understand that,” she said.

But with working mothers in particular, Yuen has noticed some take jobs that limit them and don’t use their skill sets, because they need more flexible schedules.

“I hear a lot of moms who, after they have kids, change careers or just give up on finding work that’s rewarding to them, and it’s unfortunate because women have so much to offer,” she said, “and it’s just a matter of finding a company that’s going to take advantage of that opportunity to have you with them.”

Stefanie Poli, an administrative assistant with Cameray Child and Family Services, found her employer was very understanding when she became pregnant a month after returning from her first maternity leave.

“They’ve just been incredibly positive when I got pregnant again, going off again, and my second mat leave was two years, and they were wonderful when I came back again the second time,” she said.

Finding child care for two children was the hardest challenge, Poli said, and she ended up working out a part-time work schedule with her supervisor.

They’ve also been very understanding about retraining her after her return from her second maternity leave, she added.

The employer has good policies in place, which is key, Poli said. Employees are able to take a second year of unpaid maternity leave if they wish, and work schedules are also flexible from week to week. They can also use paid sick leave when their kids are sick, and take unpaid leave once that runs out.

Work culture is also essential, she said.

“I feel so lucky to work in an environment where we practise what we preach,” she said of Cameray, which encourages clients to maintain a healthy work/family balance.

Employers such as Jolene Johnson, owner of National Risk Management Group Ltd., make it a priority to work with their employees’ schedules.

The group provides private investigation services in B.C. and Alberta, and security services in Alberta.

Everybody has to work, she said. “I have an investigator who’s a family man who has a four-month-old at home, and he’s got other kids as well. So what we try to do is accommodate his schedule so he can be home with his kids.”

This is different than a lot of employers who expect employees to always work around them, Johnson pointed out.

“We do it differently, and the reason why we do it differently is because at the end of the day everybody has to work but everybody, if you have a happy wife or happy husband at home, the employee is more productive,” she said.

The business is one that allows for some schedule flexibility, she added.

“One of the services we provide is we locate people, and so a lot of times we will get moms who are wanting to get back in the workforce but they still have their little ones at home, but there’s such a dynamic when it comes to child care in the Burnaby area, specifically,” Johnson said. “And so a lot of times these parents, as much as they want to get back to work, they can’t financially afford to because of a) not being able to find a proper daycare or childcare spot or b) they just simply don’t make enough money. So we actually employ individuals who work from home, and they’re surfing the net locating people. “

These employees have to have a criminal record check just like employees that work in the office and are vetted the same way, she said.

While employees can sometimes take advantage of a more flexible schedule, it’s not very common, according to Johnson.

“Everybody comes with their own dynamics,” she said. “But I look at their ability. Everybody has an asset, everybody needs to work, because you have to pay the bills. I’ll hire people that have mental health issues, that have anxiety, that maybe only can work a couple of days a week.”

This leads to better working relationships overall, she explained.

“I find if you provide a stable work environment, a healthy work environment, and your understanding of your employees’ issues, then you’re going to have a long-lasting employer/employee relationship with that individual,” Johnson said.

(Janaya Fuller Evans was a temporary receptionist at Cameray Child and Family Services last April.)

 

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