Chamber and First Impressions launch guide to family-friendly workplace policies

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

Amid childcare shortages in the Yampa Valley, local businesses have been discussing how they can address the lack of care that leaves 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, such a venture is far beyond what they could accommodate.

“It’s such a huge effort,” said Kara Stoller, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Chamber. “We’re trying to focus on what’s a bit more doable, what can have an impact now.”

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

Policies include time off, flexible work hours, health and wellness benefits, workplace accommodations and supports, and childcare. The guide is meant to be a list of options for various companies to add policies that work for them based on the size of the workforce and the nature of the job, Stoller said.

“My recommendation is to open this manual (and) find what works for the employer and the employee,” Stoller said. “Not everything in there is for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be.”

Stoller pointed out that it’s best to choose policies that are a “middle ground,” meaning they’re beneficial for employees and achievable for an employer.

“The more employers adopt some of these policies, the greater the impact on our community,” Commissioner Beth Melton said in a statement. “Widespread adoption of such policies is a strategy that could help move the needle on our dire childcare shortage.

Not only can policies serve current employees, Angela Pleshe, First Impressions program manager, said they can also help attract talent.

“When parents feel supported and have enough time to care for their children, productivity, job satisfaction, and employee health and well-being increase,” Pleshe said.

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

The chamber will also offer up to six weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave, and time off is more flexible, allowing staff members to use it when they need it.

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