Working Well

Seeking a New Normal in Family Benefits

One company does its due diligence and creates an enticing family friendly benefits package.

Having recently finished a feature for Workforce about paid family leave, I’ve been in a family-friendly benefits bubble for the past few months. That’s why I found a conversation with Daniel Polich and Katie Combs particularly interesting.

Polich is a breast-feeding advocate at Aeroflow Healthcare, a medical device company in Asheville, North Carolina. Katie Combs is the chief culture officer at the company. The company, which has just over 300 employees, recently expanded its paid family leave to six weeks. As Polich pointed out, there are more benefits or perks than just paid family leave that make a parent’s life easier.

The company also offers free diapers for a year, a lactation room designed to feel like a nursery, free doula services (up to six hours of a doula’s time) and free breast pump with accessories. This can come in handy to employees who, for example, can’t afford breast-feeding supplies or whose insurance doesn’t cover something that’d be valuable to them, said Polich. Although paid leave is an important family-friendly benefit, many people’s financial situations may keep them from being able to afford certain things or services.

It’s cost effective for Aeroflow because it’s a durable medical equipment company that gets these products at cost, except for the doula, said Polich. “Offering a mother who’s otherwise not able to afford that education or expertise, is an important opportunity that we want to make sure they have.”

One of the major themes that came up in the Workforce feature was how cost can be a deterrent in a company’s decision to adopt a paid family leave policy. That’s why hearing about these other perks as well was valuable. Companies that would like to offer a more generous policy but can’t have other options to consider.

There were a few key takeaways I got from speaking with Polich and Combs:

Pursue a New Normal: “When we were writing this policy, we called a lot of companies that had similar benefits,” said Polich. “That’s what we considered our normal from there on,” he said, adding that it’s not yet the new normal for many companies.

Do Your Research: Polich spoke about how as a breast-feeding advocate, he and his team are constantly making sure to keep educated, whether that means attending breast-feeding seminars or doula conferences. It’s a way to keep themselves well-rounded and to make sure they know what’s going on in the community, he said.

Listen to Employees: On a more micro level, employees have a voice in these perks. Maintaining an open dialogue with employees is important, said Polich. “If we see the diapers are working and employees love them, then we’ll keep this going. If not, we’ll readjust,” he said.

Know Your Purpose: Part of the company’s philosophy was that it would grow so that it could give back, explained Combs, who follows the 3Cs — customers, coworkers and community. “If we are going to be a company that’s leading in the industry in breast-feeding and the advocacy behind it, we have to be at the forefront in doing what we say. We have to lead from the front,” she said.

Although for this medical device company many of these policies were cost effective, the same might not be true for companies in other industries. That being said, I see the broad lesson here of taking advantage of what you do have as a company to make creative benefits. Maybe that’s in family-friendly benefits or in another area. Taking advantage of your expertise and connections could be valuable and help offer employees some creative perks.

Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. You can find Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews and Andie at @andie_burjek. Comment below or email editors.workforce.com.