When Aeroflow Healthcare announced an expansion of its maternity leave policy in November, it was more than a nice, new perk for Megan Prestridge. It was life-changing news.
At nearly five months pregnant with their first child, Megan and her husband were struggling to figure out how they could financially afford to stay in their apartment once the baby arrived. At the time, Aeroflow, where Megan had worked for about nine months, offered two weeks of paid maternity leave. Megan knew she would need to take about a month of unpaid leave to care for her newborn on top of what the company previously offered.
“When I found out I was pregnant, it was a really tough time for my husband and I,” said Megan, a Breastpump Specialist for the durable medical equipment provider. “We just didn’t have enough.”
With both sets of parents in town, the couple decided they’d give up their lease in April when the baby was due, and “hop from parent to parent until I could go back to work.”
Then, Asheville-based Aeroflow announced its expanded maternity leave policy – from two weeks to six weeks for maternity leave, and two weeks of parental leave for fathers. That meant Megan would now get six fully paid weeks of leave.
“It was amazing. It was such a relief,” Megan said.
Aeroflow came through again when Megan was put on bed rest 27 weeks into her pregnancy. Her team leader allowed her to work from home until her daughter, Kara, was born on March 25 at 37 weeks. Thanks to the expanded leave policy and the ability to work from home instead of using leave while on bed rest, Megan and her husband were not only able to stay in their apartment, they were able to move to a new space perfect for their family of three.
The experience has made Megan, who returned back to work from leave in late May, incredibly loyal to Aeroflow and proud to work for a company that cares for its employees.
“I feel like by changing their policy for parents, Aeroflow was really living its motto: ensuring quality care from first breath of life to last,” she said. “They took care of my baby from her very first breath.”
Daniel Polich, a senior recruiter for Aeroflow, helped the company navigate the creation and implementation of several new family-friendly policies over the past year. He said incorporating family-friendly practices is a conscious choice for Aeroflow as it experiences rapid growth.
“We’ve been listed as an Inc. 5000 fastest growing company… It has been a whirlwind,” Polich said. “And as we grow, we’re working on employee engagement and culture.”
Recognizing employees as whole people with families and lives outside of work is an important part of that culture, Polich said. “Employees need to be appreciated, and one of the ways we’re seeing that is through a need for families to be recognized. That’s something that strikes home pretty quick.”
In addition to its expanded maternity leave, which allows for paid leave following birth or adoption, the company of 400 employees nationwide added the following new policies within the last year:
- reimbursement for adoption costs of up to $5,000 per child;
- reimbursement of up to $300 for a birth or postpartum doula for families who have a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed foster child;
- free breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies for eligible employees who decide to breastfeed;
- and one year of free diapers for the first year of a child’s life or date of adoption or foster placement.
Additionally, Aeroflow built a pumping room for breastfeeding mothers at its Asheville headquarters, which is open to both employees and Aeroflow patients. With a comfy chair, a mini fridge, a sink and a changing table, it’s a space that feels welcoming to moms and their babies, Megan said.
“I use the pumping room twice every day,” she said. “It’s really comfortable. And on Fridays, my mom, who takes care of the baby, brings her there to feed. We can change her, and I feel like she’s welcome here.”
As a parent who works at Aeroflow, Megan said she feels valued, which makes her want to plan a career at the company she loves.
“I haven’t felt the need to look for something else, and I have a lot of friends who are mothers and, depending on their employer, they are looking elsewhere, or they have to leave their job completely, which means they don’t get to follow their career path,” she said. “I feel like (Aeroflow) values me, and I feel like they value me as an employee and as a mom.”
Attracting and retaining talent, along with increasing employee engagement, was a definite motivator for the company, and it’s a strategy that’s worked, Polich said.
For other companies looking to increase their own family-friendly benefits, Polich offers the following tips:
- Get leadership on board. At Aeroflow, Polich said it was easy to get leaders on board with the idea to expand family offerings, in large part because several leaders have families themselves. “Every single one of our executives has a family of two or three children or more, so their sense of family is strong.”
- Do your homework. Polich and his colleagues did their own research on the benefits of family-friendly policies, templates for how to implement and the business case study. He also enlisted help from Moms Rising and the North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition.
- Get feedback from employees. The Aeroflow Improvement Movement, a group of employees who provide feedback to company leaders, has been instrumental in helping to hone workplace policies and culture.
- Review and revise as needed. Polich stresses that Aeroflow’s policies are a continual work in progress.
For more information on Megan and Aeroflow’s Breastpump Specialists, visit https://aeroflowbreastpumps.com/megan-prestridge.