Chamber, First Impressions launch guidebook of family friendly workplace polices |

Chamber, First Impressions launch guidebook of family friendly workplace polices

Melinda Mass, executive director at Heritage Park Preschool west of Steamboat Springs, sits with children as they eat a snack in August 2021. The limited availability of child care in the Yampa Valley has lead some employers to be more flexible with their staff’s hours in the office.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Amid child care shortages in the Yampa Valley, local businesses have discussed how they can address the lack of care that is leaving many of them shorthanded.

Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. is working to open its own center by the end of the year, but for many Routt County businesses, an undertaking like that is well beyond what they could accommodate.

“That is such a massive endeavor,” said Kara Stoller, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Chamber. “We’re trying to focus on what is a little bit more feasible, what can make an impact now.”

That led the chamber and First Impressions of Routt County, the local early childhood education council, to create the Family Forward Guidebook. It’s a resource for local businesses to help them understand and enact more family friendly workplace policies, which can be particularly important when nearly 80% of local families have two working parents.

Policies include leave, flexible work scheduling, health and wellness benefits, workplace accommodations and support, and child care. The guidebook is meant to be a list of options for various businesses to add policies that make sense for them depending on the size of workforce and nature of the work, Stoller said.

“My recommendation is to open up that handbook (and) find what works for the employer and the employee,” Stoller said. “Everything in there is not for everyone, and it doesn’t need to be.”

Stoller emphasized it is best to choose policies that are a “happy medium,” meaning they are beneficial for employees and attainable for an employer.

“The more employers adopt some of all of these policies, the greater impact for our community,” Commissioner Beth Melton said in statement. “Widespread adoption of such policies is one strategy that could help move the needle on our severe child care shortage.”

Not only can policies serve current employees, but Angela Pleshe, program leader for First Impressions, said it can help attract talent as well.

“When parents feel supported and are given adequate time to care for their children, productivity, job satisfaction and employee health and wellness increase,” Pleshe said.

Stoller said the chamber has implemented some of the policies for its employees. One of those is a flexible workplace where employees are only expected to be in the office 20 hours a week, she said.

The chamber will also offer up to six weeks of paid maternal or paternal leave as well, and time off is more flexible, letting staffers use it when they need it.

“Our team members, with and without children, are really excited about some of those changes we’ve made,” Stoller said.

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