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Parents benefit from work-backed child care

By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / June 23, 2010

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When Jennifer Battaglia drops her 3-year-old daughter off at Winchester Hospital’s child care center, she feels like she’s leaving her with a family member.

“It gives me a peace of mind,’’ said Battaglia, who does computer training at the hospital.

A new study by the Watertown-based Bright Horizons Family Solutions due out today echoes this sentiment. Not only are employees less stressed when they have access to employer-sponsored child care, according to the survey, they enjoy their jobs more, work harder, and have fewer health problems than employees without it.

“People who use these types of programs tend to be more engaged and more productive because ultimately they’re healthier and less stressed,’’ said Dave Lissy, chief executive of Bright Horizons, a company that is a leading provider of employer-sponsored child care.

Of the 4,000 working parents surveyed over the past 12 months, the approximately 2,000 who had access to child and elder care through their companies were 30 percent less likely to report lost productivity due to stress and had 25 percent fewer stress-induced health problems.

Those whose employers didn’t offer some form of dependent care, on the other hand, reported higher levels of depression, headaches, digestive problems, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The study, done in collaboration with Jamie Ladge, a Northeastern University professor, also found that employees with dependent care offered through work were more satisfied with their jobs, had better relationships with their co-workers, and were more likely to stay at their company for at least a year.

“It’s hard to be fully engaged in the work that you do,’’ said Ladge, “when you’re thinking about those other outside stressors.’’

Ladge, an assistant professor of management and organizational development at Northeastern’s College of Business Administration, doesn’t use the university’s on-site preschool for her three young children, but she said just knowing that it’s there is a relief.

The results of the study, say Ladge and Lissy, are relevant at a time when health care costs are rising, more parents are in the workforce, and younger employees are intent on maintaining a work-life balance. Company loyalty isn’t what it used to be, Ladge pointed out, and benefits such as child care lead to lower turnover.

The executives at Winchester Hospital are well aware of this fact.

“We are in a competitive health care market,’’ said Anne Lang, vice president of human resources for the hospital, “so those kinds of things really do help us attract and maintain the best employees.’’

Not only that, Lang has noticed an increased camaraderie among the working parents who use the child care center. “I think it gives them this sense of security,’’ she said.

Katie Johnston Chase can be reached at johnstonchase@globe.com.