AUSTIN, Texas -- In an effort to give the City of Austin a competitive advantage, elected officials and advocates are launching an initiative this month to encourage business leaders to look at how family-friendly their workplaces are and can be.

  • 26 percent of full-time Austin employees have kids under 5
  • 83 percent of millennials would leave current job for a more family-friendly environment
  • Early Matter Greater Austin has created family-friendly toolkit

While there is continued job growth in the region, city leaders point to a survey that said 83 percent of millennials would leave their current job for one with more family-friendly benefits. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 26 percent of full-time employees in Austin have children under the age of 5.

To help support those parents, members of Early Matters Greater Austin created a toolkit for business leaders to assess their practices and policies, as well as consider new opportunities. Among several strategies, some include having flexibility in hours and locations, supporting employee caregiving responsibilities, or creating a lactation space for mothers.

“Family-friendly practices not only help with recruitment and retention, but they reduce costs, because it reduces the cost when employees turnover, or also when they experience chronic absences, because people have challenges with childcare falling through. So, it's really helpful to the business bottom line,” said Cathy McHorse of Early Matters Greater Austin.

Kasey Mitchell is the office manager at T3, a marketing think tank and advertising agency in downtown Austin. Mitchell has a range of responsibilities to make sure operations are running smoothly and that employees and their clients are taken care of. Recently, she has been reminded that she is cared for, too.  Mitchell is back to work from maternity leave, but she is not separated from her 4-month-old son, Ashton. The “T3 and Under” program allows employees when they come back from parental leave to bring their babies to the office.

“Being able to ease back into work, he eases into getting to know the world. We get to do it together for a little while. It’s just such a treat and it doesn’t happen everywhere,” Mitchell said.

The program has been going on for the past 24 years. T3’s  CEO and founder Gay Gaddis, who is also a mother of three, thought of the idea when four employees were pregnant at the same time. Since then, more than 100 infants have gone through “T3 and Under.”

“I thought, if we could use provide some segue for the moms and dads, so they weren’t having to make those hard-cut decisions, when the child was so young. We just thought was going to be a really interesting way for us to retain talent, because I was afraid I was going to lose people, and also to do what I just said was the right thing. It's very hard to leave an infant, when you're still breastfeeding, or you're still very concerned about their early health,” Gaddis said.

Gaddis joined city leaders and representatives of Early Matters Greater Austin in the start of the "Family-Friendly Workplace Initiative." Gaddis said beyond the policy being good for business and saving on recruitment costs, having supportive services at work developed a culture that gives parents options and promotes work-life balance. Mitchell said she is thankful.

“A company that offers this options just shows that they care about you,” Mitchell said. “You want to be part of a company that cares about you and your life and your family.”