How Can Companies Address the Issue?
By airing their grievances, childless employees can spur change. But it's incumbent upon the organization, and those leading it, to even out the work-life playing field between employees with and without kids. Here's how employers can approach the process.
1. Learn what employees do off-site. As a manager, it's vital to know the intersection point between an employee's work responsibilities and outside activities. The needs of a single marathon runner are quite different from a soccer dad, Casper notes. As the time approaches for him or her to make arrangements for an after-work activity, managers should "be sensitive to what they might need the last few days before [doing it]," she says.
2. Present perks in an inclusive way. A company may use different means (literature, videos, posters) to break down its flexibility and benefits package. Regardless of the method, it's symbolically important that the materials are inclusive. "How you package, communicate and present your flexibility tools and policies and skills to your workplace must be purposefully applicable to everybody," Yost says.
3. Find alternative benefits. Some employers may pay for or offer discounted child care. A nice perk for some, but others are left with an empty bag. If an organization finds a common need among childless employees, it should provide a benefit that addresses it. While researching a consulting firm several years ago, Casper found that childless employees who spent a significant time on the road had trouble finding someone to care for their dogs. Although the firm didn't pay for the costs, it did provide and organize a dog-care service.
4. Give equal weight to all non-work commitments. Regardless the activity, bosses must view all requests as equal. "The most important part is for the supervisor not to judge how valuable the employee's non-work commitments are," Casper says.