$12,000 perk that solves parents’ big headache
IT'S the Sydney workplace saving their employees tens of thousands of dollars a year by offering a free on-site crèche, travelling nannies for interstate projects, flexible work arrangements and daily yoga, boxing and walking clubs.
There's fresh fruit, veggies and healthy snacks provided every day.
There's celebration, recognition and reward. Welcome to INS Career Management - the heavenly nirvana of Australian workplaces, where childcare is free and reduced hours a must.
Or as their employees call it - Google, without the fancy hammocks and ping pong tables.
"It was quite selfish actually - I had two staff members who went off and had babies and I really wanted them back, it was that simple," INS CEO and co-founder Sophia Symeou told news.com.au
"So we started a crèche.
"I wanted them in the workplace, but for them to pay for childcare was financially difficult, so I thought that's something I can do.
"I just made it possible for them."
Leading by example
The Sydney-based job placement business, which started in 2011 and now has 45 staff, specialises in helping people who to lose their jobs through redundancy, always wanted to be different.
"That's our driver for everything," Ms Symeou said.
"Creating workforces for the future is about creating flexibility in the workforce, and if you want Mums and Dads to be able to work equally, you need to provide the basic structure for them to do that."
She said there were currently three children in the INS crèche, and they were also investigating after-school care for an employee's seven-year-old.
"It's really about where the need is," she said.
"I also worked for big organisations and I was a management consultant for 15 years and I decided I would do everything I ever preached around good practice."
That includes being productive in reduced hours.
"Working long hours does not equal dedication," Ms Symeou said.
"I will leave before them most times because I try and set the example."
Dad Adam Erin and his wife Laura both work for INS, and were given a nanny to take their 18-month-old daughter to Adelaide for five days to work on a project. The crèche's educators were hand-picked by the parents, including Mr Erin.
"It's just incredible," the company's learning and development manager said.
"We even got to select the nannies through a proper agency, Sophia wouldn't just get someone from Gumtree or something - and they are amazing.
"You get to spend more time with your children because your work day starts when you walk in the door and you haven't dropped kids here and there and gotten on and off buses.
"The hardest part is not sticking your head in to see them all the time."
Making work affordable for parents
Mr Erin, whose wife Laura is expecting their second child, said the financial support of free childcare had changed their lives significantly, and made it possible for both of them to work.
"It's great because childcare in the east (of Sydney) is like a second mortgage, and when we have our second child, if there wasn't a crèche it would be pointless for one of us to come back to work."
But it's not just the financial benefit, he says - it's symbiotic of a culture that flows through the whole organisation.
"Everyone is like family and she really goes out of her way," Mr Erin said.
"If her door is closed for some reason then something huge is going on - and you can still knock.
"Honestly INS puts Google to shame - we don't have the fancy hammocks or the ping pong tables, but we have everything else.
"We have the real stuff."
Chatswood mum Kellie Grant is the HR manager at INS and works full-time, with her almost three-year-old daughter in the crèche three days a week, saving her upwards of $12,000 a year in childcare fees.
"It's fantastic - it's beyond amazing," she said.
"The kids are taken out once a day, whether that's to a playgroup or the museum or the Aquarium - they just have the best time.
"It is saving us a huge amount of money - in my mother's group they talk about the costs and I think oh my goodness we are so lucky, it's a huge burden on families, at a time in your life when you're already financially behind."
Painting the picture of Parents At Work
Emma Walsh, CEO of Parents at Work, said having both men and women supported by positive work environments was vital - not only for workplace productivity, but also to maintain good mental and physical health and wellbeing.
"Many employers don't see child care as a workplace problem to solve and therefore have largely been reluctant to formalise internal child care type services in the office," Ms Walsh said.
"The cost of childcare for our three children in care four days a week exceeded our mortgage repayments.
"Many feel locked out of the work force due to caring commitments.
"Workplaces with crèche facilities would be a godsend for parents especially those needing more casual, holiday or emergency care."
She said Aussie dads were also key to greater equality in workplace participation.
"With only two per cent of dads taking parental leave, child care is still a mother's domain, burden and problem to solve," she said.
"Employers who go the extra mile to incentivise both mums and dads to take parental leave is part of what creates an inclusive, positive workplace."
To shine a light on this issue, Parents At Work has worked with award-winning photographer Johan Bavman to exhibit a series of 'Swedish Dads' and 'Aussie Dads' to challenge the view of a Dad's role and to highlighted the gap between the Swedish and Australian approach to work and family.
The photography exhibit will be launching in Canberra in May and will tour nationally.