Bonding time with young children is so crucial, and saying goodbye every time we have to leave them to go to work is tough—for both kids and parents. In the United States, one of the few countries without mandated paid parental leave, this goodbye can happen way too soon: A 2015 study found that 25 percent of new moms return to work in less than two weeks!
One way great companies have found to make going to work easier on parents and their kids is by providing some sort of onsite daycare or childcare. Though it doesn't come cheap, companies bank on the belief that making childcare more convenient helps them attract and retain top talent who value family friendly benefits like this. Below, we highlight five companies that offer enviable onsite daycare or childcare for employees. These centers are far from the norm (as reported by Bloomberg, a Society for Human Resources 2016 benefits survey found only 3 percent of organizations provide unsubsidized daycare services), but we hope that one day they will be.
1. Clif Bar & Company's Clif Base Camp
Location: Emeryville, CA
Why it's great: To promote a healthy work life balance for employees, Clif Bar & Company created this 6,700 square foot childcare center, designed to serve up to 64 children. Operated by KinderCare Education at Work, the camp has a staff of teachers—all early-childhood professionals—who use Early Foundations, a curriculum of age-specific programs for infants through 12-year-old school age students that focuses on six areas: language and literacy development, executive function, social and emotional development, physical development and wellness, cognitive development, and creative expression. In addition, the center is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), a child development organization whose standards are only achieved by 8 percent of all 110,000 programs nationally. Facilities, designed to reflect Clif Bar‘s spirit of outdoor adventure, consist of inside and outside areas for five distinct age groups, a music room, fitness toys including a pint-sized treadmill, elliptical trainer, stationary bike and bench press, and an outdoor playground.
The center shares a common wall with the office area, and parents can visit their child at any point throughout the day. The cost for parents, subsidized by Clif Bar, depends on whether they work full-time or part-time and their children's ages; scholarships are also offered. Clif Bar reports less than 5 percent employee turnover each year and high marks for Clif Base Camp service and quality of care from parents.
2. Home Depot's Little Apron Academy
Location: Atlanta, GA
Why it's great: Managed by Bright Horizons, the largest provider of employer-sponsored child care in the United States, and accredited by the NAEYC, Little Apron Academy has a learning-based curriculum and offers programs such as Language Works, Math Counts, Science Rocks and ArtSmart, as well as kindergarten prep and school-age programs, and programs geared toward infants, toddlers and preschoolers. It has a capacity for 326 children—including 278 enrolled full-time and 48 school age kids who attend for summer camp and school breaks. The center also provides back-up care services for families of The Home Depot.
3. Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Bernice E. Lavin Early Childhood Education Center
Location: Chicago, IL
Why it's great: This center proves you can do onsite childcare in a city; with a capacity for 320 children, it's the largest onsite childcare center in Chicago. Operated by Bright Horizons, the center features programs for six different age groups (including infant, kindergarten prep and school age). It also offers enrichment programs guided by specialized teachers within an art studio, science library, dance studio and indoor physical activity spaces—and is one of only a few downtown Chicago childcare centers with two expansive playgrounds. The hospital center, a 2016 Working Mother 100 Best Company, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, uses the World at Their Fingertips curriculum, designed to engage children in active learning that prepares them for school while helping them achieve their individual potential and fostering a spirit of community. In the summer, kids can even visit the center's rooftop garden, which provides produce for a weekly Farmer's Market. With an open door policy, parents can visit their kids anytime.
4. Patagonia's Great Pacific Child Development Center and Truckee River Child Development Center
Location: Ventura, CA, and Reno, NV
Why it's great: In 1983, outdoor apparel brand Patagonia became one of the first companies in America to start a corporate-sponsored onsite child development center, and it's paid off. Since then, it has served as a model for excellent on-site childcare centers—and the company encourages other businesses to follow suit (check out their self-published book, Family Business). They report reaping rewards such as employee retention, employee engagement, tax benefits, improved productivity, more women in management positions and a strong workplace culture. Moreover, 100 percent of the Patagonia female employees who have had children over the past five years have returned to work—wow!
Its childcare center, geared toward kids ages 2 months to 9 years, encourages risk-taking and struggle and promotes unstructured play with an emphasis on outdoor learning. The center is run by teachers who are bilingual and/or trained in child development. Other perks: School-age kids can visit their parents at the Patagonia headquarters after school using buses provided by the company.
5. Toyota Manufacturing's Children's Center
Location: Princeton, IN
Why it's great: This childcare center, also managed by Bright Horizons, accommodates kids of parents who work super early and super late by operating 24 hours a day. To support work life balance, kids are kept on the same schedule as their parents. Kids can look forward to individualized attention at this NAEYC-accredited center as well as five separate outdoor learning areas, a natural trail and a green space located behind the center. To learn healthy eating habits and exercise, kids can take part in a Fit Kids program provided by Gibson General Hospital.
Other notable features include free developmental and vision screenings twice a year, secure-at-all-times facilities supported by in-house security as well as fire security and EMS, and a Continuity of Care aspect to the program, which has educators stay with the the same primary group of children from enrollment in the infant program until age 2.