Did you know that Eastlake at Tillery, the East Austin office development from CREA, will have the first third-party lactation suite service in Austin? You might be asking: What is a third-party lactation suite service and why do you need one in your office building?
In this article, Abbey Donnell, Founder and CEO of Work & Mother, answers all your questions and explains what a third-party lactation suite service is and the benefits of having one at your office building.
When you hear the term Mothers’ Room, a small poorly lit beige room with an armchair might come to mind—that is, if you’re lucky. For many working moms, the absence of a designated space has meant that the “mothers’ room” is actually the supply closet, the empty office down the hall with a chair pushed up against the door, the floor of the public bathroom, or the car in the hot parking lot. All of these options put moms in vulnerable positions, often forcing them to choose between providing for their child and remaining in the workforce.
The standard for corporate mothers’ rooms has been too low for too long. But why should we expect individual employers of all sizes and industries to be able to adequately provide the space and resources required for such an intimate and intricate task as breastfeeding, when they aren’t in the business of breastfeeding?
It’s time to outsource to the professionals, and standardize third-party lactation room services for office properties.
What is a third-party lactation suite service?
A third-party lactation room service, like Work & Mother, helps create, equip, and operate the lactation room(s) for a commercial property.
Your typical mothers’ room might just be an empty office or conspicuous privacy pod that only serves those within that office suite. But a third-party operated Mothers’ Suite is a full-service solution that supports all the tenants in the building.
The operator maintains proper insurance, stays up to date on the latest breastfeeding-related legislation, maintains all necessary hospital-grade equipment, and oversees daily booking and usage (often with an app or membership software).
It’s much like the difference between having a Keurig coffee cart versus a Starbucks in the lobby.
5 Benefits of a Third-Party Mothers’ Suite Service
1. Helps Employers Meet Legal Requirements
In 2010, Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) was amended to require that employers provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
Though it took time for education around the law to spread, most employees are now aware of their rights. As a result, breastfeeding-related lawsuits have skyrocketed, increasing 800% over the past decade.
These suits are no small matter. Recent workplace breastfeeding discrimination suits have awarded settlements to wronged employees ranging from $375,000 to $3.8 million.
On the state and even municipal levels, more and more laws are being introduced with regard to breastfeeding requirements in the workplace.
A third-party service stays on top of the ever-changing landscape, making sure the facilities stay up to code. Because providing the adequate space and oversight is costly and difficult for individual employers, when a building satisfies that need for them, the value is huge.
2. Saves Employers Money
A single, dedicated Mothers’ Room with plumbing can cost, on average, north of $50,000 to build out. That figure doesn’t include furniture, equipment, or rent, nor does it factor in the internal operational costs of having HR manage usage and compliance.
Having an amenitized, third-party managed Mothers’ Suite enables companies to preserve their office footprint for their core business, which in turn provides tangible cost savings and improves their productivity.
3. Provides Everything Mothers Need, Not Just Space
An amenitized, third-party-managed Lactation Room Service provides value far beyond the space itself. The liability and associated insurance, expertise and certifications, hospital-grade pumps and equipment maintenance, access and room booking systems, capacity requirements and use management, sanitation and security safeguards are all vital parts of the equation.
Third-party operators also consider each space to optimize pumping efficiency, minimizing the time employees spend tethered to the pump.
They provide every single thing a mother needs to pump during the workday, including hospital-grade equipment, milk storage bags, cleaning facilities and sanitizing supplies, and refrigeration.
Work & Mother’s additional support resources such as return to work coaching programs, lactation consultant appointments, and parenting classes, all provide protective layers of support to ensure employees aren’t struggling as they try to balance work and family.
Work & Mother is also creating a network of their fully equipped Mothers’ Suites, which will enable working moms to travel more freely for work, knowing they will be able to access a professional lactation suite nearby.
4. Serves as a Powerful Marketing Tool
Amenities contribute to leasing success. Current amenity offerings span from dry-cleaning to bike lockers to tenant lounges with foosball and beers on tap. But what message does it send when recreation is prioritized above physical human need? There are over 2.5 million births per year to women in the workforce and yet, there has been little innovation or improvement to the conditions in which these moms have to pump at their workplace. A full-service lactation suite is a huge differentiator and an amenity that companies need, now.
Beyond it being a highly marketable building amenity, a third-party managed Mothers’ Suite can contribute to various building certifications. For buildings pursuing Well or Fitwel credits, a dedicated Mothers’ Suite can provide a quick four or 4.75 credits, respectively. It can also factor into Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) program initiatives.
5. Helps Attract and Retain Top Talent
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months with supplemental feeding for one year or longer; however, with the average maternity leave a mere 10 weeks, the pressure is too much and 43% of new moms end up leaving their jobs for more mother-friendly roles.
It can cost up to 200% of an experienced employee’s annual salary to replace them. Now that women are waiting longer, until they’re more established in their careers to begin having children, the cost associated with losing and replacing such an employee is substantially higher.
Thankfully, there’s an easy fix: companies with lactation support programs see an average 94% retention rate of moms, compared to the national average of 59%.
Lower turnover rates for companies can contribute to lower tenant turnover rates, and big cost savings, for landlords.
Additionally, employers are currently emphasizing diversity across roles, and but particularly in upper management, as studies have shown that companies with women in at least 30% of management roles are 15% more profitable. However, in order to meet those thresholds, companies must first recruit and retain the talent.
Millennials make up nearly 75% of the workforce, and 90% of new parents. And with 96% of Millennials ranking health and family benefits as the most important factors when choosing jobs with similar salaries, employers need to provide the right benefits if they want to remain competitive. Thus, they need office buildings that truly cater to the modern workforce.
All in all, when factoring in lower turnover, higher productivity and morale, and greater healthcare savings, data shows that employers with lactation support programs see a $3 ROI.
The Bottom Line, Breastfeeding is Good For Business
Having a third-party managed lactation suite service isn’t just a feel-good move. It’s a strategic business decision that’s proven to be good for the bottom line both for employers and for landlords.
To continue learning about how you can take your commercial property to the next level, check out these articles:
- Should You Allow Tenants to Bring Dogs Into Your Office Building? (Pros & Cons)
- Should You Build a Spec Suite at Your Office Building?
- How Much Does It Cost to “White Box” Commercial Space? (With Definition & Benefits)
- 8 Reasons Your Commercial Property Isn’t Leasing