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Local effort aims to ease stress on working families

Posted at 11:11 AM, Dec 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-19 17:42:19-05

A new effort in San Luis Obispo County aims to ease the stress of working parents.

The San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, First 5 of San Luis Obispo, and the County of San Luis Obispo think parents can create a healthy work/life balance, with some help from the company that employs them.

“One of the core challenges that we’ve known for generations for women and parents in the workforce is childcare,” said Wendy Wendt, First 5 of San Luis Obispo County Executive Director.

“Nearly 1,400 parents in SLO County are unable to work because of family obligations,“ said Christine Lefevre Latner, San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce Workforce Development Manager.

Jessica Bower from Pismo Beach knows this balancing act all too well.

“I actually had hives come up on my head, I got so stressed out," explains Jessica Bower, Marian Regional Medical Center Cardiovascular Services Director and parent of a one-year-old girl.

Bower worked for years to establish her career as a Cardiovascular Services Director. But now with a one-year-old child, her situation has changed.

"I can’t believe that I am in the day and age that I'm in, and I'm honestly having to balance the decision of whether or not I have to be a mom full-time, or if I can afford to go back to work,” said Bower.

Carly Saenz is a full-time medical assistant and a mother of four. She shared her struggle of balancing work and her home life.

“I feel like my money, all of my paycheck, is going straight to childcare," said Carly Saenz, UCLA Health Medical Assistant.

The San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, First 5, and the County of San Luis Obispo created the 'Family-Friendly Workplace Program' - a practical guide to help businesses support working families.

“San Luis Obispo County is one of the most expensive, least affordable places to live, and childcare takes a big bite out of that,” said Wendt. “There’s this suite of options that we think of with family-friendly workplace practice that allows businesses, small, medium and large, to find that sweet spot and a way to honor their working parents.”

Angela Toomey, Morris & Garritano Human Resources Director, has implemented some of the Family-Friendly Workplace Program's guidelines. "Flexing your hours - for one hour or two hours - can really make a huge difference in getting your child to daycare, or making it to that night class,” said Toomey.

While some say the program is a no-brainer, there has been some pushback.

Wendt said, “There’s sometimes a question of why should a business put this kind of energy and investment into family-friendly workplace policies.”

To which many local businesses say…

”The payoff is tenfold. Your employees will stay loyal,” said Toomey.

Kelly Boss, iFixit Human Resources Director, said her company has been using family-friendly practices for years.

“The amount of money saved by retaining good people outweighs any cost. There can be alternative ways to doing things and putting more effort into supporting people to live a balanced life is worth it,” said Boss.

Companies interested in learning more about family-friendly practices can take an assessment on the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce's website to see where they land on the spectrum of 'family-friendliness' and where there is room for growth.