Whether you're in the office or working from home, here are the top perks to ask your company about (or look for in a new one) so you can get a little more work-life balance and a lot more peace of mind.

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If there's one thing we have learned from 2020, it's that work-life balance is important—especially when you're a parent. Many parents have juggled working remotely, online school, or having to work in person and struggling to find child care during the lockdown. With companies slowly reopening their physical offices, many parents worry how returning to the workplace will affect their ability to show up for other responsibilities. According to a recent survey on the pandemic's impact on working parents by FlexJobs (an online platform that helps people find remote and flexible work), 49 percent listed child care and child giving responsibilities as their top concern for returning to the office.

The same survey found that 82 percent of working parents look at work-life balance as the most important factor when considering a new role—compared to 80 percent of those without children who said salary was most important.

Many companies are trying out hybrid work models and trying to come up with ways to improve work-life balance as they head into the new normal—but it might take you asking for change to make it happen. "Since my company has started to settle into a hybrid workforce, we have yet to find the perfect combination of parental benefits to supplement a healthy WFH environment," says Alison Person, head of human resources at personal injury law firm Hal Waldman & Associates. "I would love for a parent to come up to me and ask, "So what can you do for me?" Because benefits for parents shouldn't stop at child care."

Whether you're continuing to commute to work, working remotely, or heading back to the office, here are the job perks every parent should ask about—and deserves.

An image of a woman in a job interview.
Credit: Getty Images.

Flexible Work Schedule

Having a flexible work schedule as a parent is really important. The FlexJobs survey found that 25 percent of parents reported that a flexible work schedule would be the most helpful work arrangement—26 percent put down working from home full time.

"A flexible and hybrid working schedule has always been a need for working parents," Elizabeth Hicks, mom of two and co-founder of the Parenting Nerd blog, tells Parents. "There will come days when they won't be able to show up to the office or some other day they might arrive late. So, it is better to ask your manager about this benefit and negotiate with them."

Talk to your manager to make sure the schedule is truly flexible and allows you to take time off work or work from home when your child is sick or child care is unavailable. "To retain high performing employees that seek flexibility to care for children or aging parents, more employers are moving towards outcomes based work schedules," says Adriana Herrera, founder of PayDestiny, a platform that helps underrepresented individuals in the workplace. This allows your productivity to be measured by the quality of your work and contributions to the team and overall company—and not by the number of hours you work.

Time Off

Parents need mental health days too—especially since most are working around the clock doing work and then taking care of kids. See if your employer (or potential employer) has company-wide days off.

While many companies offer unlimited PTO, it's not as great as it sounds. "Companies have learned that employees take less time off when they don't operate under a use it or lose it mindset that traditional vacation allotments typically instill in us," says Blake Coleman, co-founder of technical recruiting service STEM Search Group. Coleman says to see if a company offers wellness days, at least one holiday per month, or if they encourage employees to take volunteer days. This way, you can spend time as a family, run errands, or schedule appointments (or have a day to yourself if you can), without worrying about using up vacation days.

Child Care Services

Child care is expensive—a recent Care.com survey found that in 2020, 57 percent of American families spent more than $10,000 in child care costs—and 59 percent plan to spend even more than that in 2021. "Parents should consider the economics of their household and negotiate for job perks that will positively impact their household income," says Herrera. Ask if there is a free or discounted onsite daycare available or if the company is able to reimburse you for unexpected costs if your primary child care falls through. If you have older kids, Coleman suggests asking if the company offers any tutoring assistance or caregiver allowances.

Infertility and Adoption Assistance

For those working to become parents, company benefits that include fertility treatments or assistance with adoption costs can go a long way. "Fertility benefits are currently more common than adoption assistance in the workplace, but both benefits are being offered more by employers," says Coleman. Fertility treatments like egg freezing and IVF are costly—if your employer offers a health plan, look into whether they cover fertility treatments or allow you to pay for them through your FSA or HSA accounts.

Company Matched 529 College Savings Plan

It's never too early to start saving for college, and having a company that matches contributions to a 529 college savings plan—a tax-advantaged account that allows you to save money for college.

"One of the most meaningful perks an employer can offer for employees who are parents is a matching contribution to a 529 college savings plan," says Patricia Roberts, college savings expert. "Employees should feel comfortable requesting that their employer offer payroll deduction along with an employer match to 529 plans as a financial wellness benefit."

Those who save for college by contributing to 529 plans through payroll deductions save 75 percent more than those who make automatic payments through bank accounts, according to data from ISS Market Intelligence. "It can go a long way in helping families avoid the $1.7 trillion in student loan debt that has become a multi-generational crisis in the U.S," says Roberts. Ask your employer about this perk so you can maximize college savings for your child's future.

Family Health Insurance

Medical bills can really add up and when you're a parent, finding ways to save on health care costs is huge. A big way to save is to see if your employer offers family health insurance—not just for you or a spouse, but for your immediate family. An employer-sponsored family insurance plan costs $21,000 on average, according to the 2020 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. While most companies do not pay the entire premium, the KFF survey found that employees with covered family insurance contributed an average of $5,588 of the premium while the employer paid the rest—definitely a perk worth asking about.