By Amanda Abrams, Rabbi Loren Lapidus, Meredith Lefkoff, Rabbi Lydia Medwin and Rachel Wasserman
Many Jewish nonprofit professionals consciously forgo higher salaries or glamorous job opportunities in order to work in an organization that matches their values and makes them feel fulfilled on a different level.
However, while a nonprofit or congregation cannot afford to pay its employees at the same level as corporate America, it can adopt policies to make the workplace more accommodating and conducive to an appropriate work-life balance. This not only ensures that an organization practices the positive Jewish values it preaches, but also increases employee morale and reduces turnover.
As stated by Advancing Women Professionals, “Retaining talent and cultivating loyalty is more cost-effective than high employee turnover.” The economic benefits have been underscored and proved by such for-profit companies as Google, Netflix and PepsiCo. It is time for the nonprofit world to follow suit.
In addition to paid parental leave, which is the natural starting point for any organization seeking to formalize the link between Jewish values and smart organizational strategy, there are many other best practices organizations should consider implementing. Not all are the best fit for every organization, so board members, CEOs and HR directors should consider the individual nuances of each workplace and think creatively about potential areas for improvement.
Here are some ideas, many of which are taken from AWP’s Better Work Better Life Campaign recommendations:
- Create a policy of formal flexibility. This may include some or all of the following components: flextime (allowing employees to think outside the 9-to-5 box); telecommuting (which may alleviate child care limitations for employees and space constraints for employers all at once); part-time work; compressed workweeks (40 hours do not have to be spread evenly across five days); and job sharing (divide a job among more than one employee).
- Provide a clean, comfortable pumping room for breast-feeding mothers with access to electrical outlets, adequate refrigerator space, a sink for cleaning pump equipment and a nice place to sit. And, no, a bathroom is not acceptable. While this is required by law for companies with more than 50 employees, all organizations should keep the needs of mothers and babies in mind and make life as easy as possible for pumping moms.
- Many of us have experienced the following scenarios: A child is too sick to attend school but not sick enough to stay home in bed; the power is out at the day care, and it closes for the day; the nanny experiences car trouble on her way to your house; the day school closes at noon for parent conferences. Few life situations are more stressful than searching for safe, quality child care in a short amount of time. How can an organization or congregation alleviate some of that stress on working parents? Depending on the situation, perhaps the employee can bring the child to the office or work from home (without fear of being criticized or punished). Some organizations offer emergency child care on site or contract with a professional child care company to make it very easy for parents to quickly arrange alternative care. More important, supervisors should be understanding, cooperative and collaborative so as not to add to the stress of the situation.
- Respect boundaries. When your development officer gets married, it is not appropriate to start asking for her family planning timeline. When your cantor is pregnant, do not ask whether the baby was planned or whether she intends to return to work after the baby is born. When your administrative assistant has several children, it is none of your business whether she intends to have more. When a candidate interviews for an open CEO position, it is neither acceptable nor legal to ask about her family.
Oftentimes these questions and comments come from a good place, but they can be received as threatening, uncomfortable and inappropriate. As a rule, if you are not sure whether something is your business, err on the side of caution and don’t ask.
Ultimately, aim to create and maintain an atmosphere of respect, privacy and flexibility for your professional team. Remember that they are whole people, with lives and responsibilities that extend beyond their position at your organization or congregation.
This column was written on behalf of an action group of Jewish communal professionals who are also mothers of young children.