How to Create a Child-Friendly Workplace

Geotab’s family-first ethos means flex hours and kid-approved snacks in the cafeteria
(illustration: Sam Island)

Geotab has always taken a family-first, work-second approach—in fact, that’s its unofficial company mantra. The fleet-management firm, based in Oakville, Ont., is led by founder and CEO Neil Cawse and his brothers, Clive, chief operating officer, and Alan, chief security officer and executive vice-president of technical services. The business has offices in 12 countries, including England, Italy, Australia and the U.S.

When the pandemic hit, the company was called on to support its international team of more than 2,000 employees through a set of new challenges: working from home, virtual schooling and the evaporation of childcare overnight.

“We had to re-evaluate our priorities,” says Melanie Scheepers, Geotab’s vice-president of human resources. Some of Geotab’s pivots were reactions to immediate needs, like a loaner-laptop program for employees’ kids doing online learning and an employee-sourced list of activities to keep young ones entertained over lockdown.

“Parents need to feel free to care for their family without feeling like their job is in jeopardy”

Geotab also re-evaluated its parental-leave policy, consulting an in-house parent focus group. The response helped the company make significant changes, including implementing a “top-up” program where Canadian parents receive up to eight weeks’ pay in addition to EI while on leave. There’s also a Global Baby Bonus, which is a payment of US$5,000 to any permanent employee with a new baby or adopted child.

For employees coming back from a leave, there’s a “returnship” process to help them reintegrate. This includes making a transition plan with their manager and sitting in on meetings to get up to speed before the official return date. If an employee—parent or not—wants to temporarily shift to part-time work, that can be accommodated with the assurance that a full-time role will be waiting when they’re ready.

Geotab is serious about flexibility. Employees can work from home as often as they’d like, and a flex-hours policy allows them to clock the hours that are best for them. “Parents need to feel free to care for their family without feeling like their job is in jeopardy,” says Scheepers.

And when employees are in- office, Geotab works to make sure their children feel welcome in the company’s games room and café, the latter of which is stocked with granola bars and ice cream. “Geotab wants to provide an inclusive environment where our employees’ children can thrive as well,” says Scheepers. “We hope to inspire the next generation.”

Sarah Laing
Sarah Laing
Sarah Laing is a freelance writer who has written for outlets like The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, The Kit and, of course, Canadian Business. She was formerly culture editor at ELLE Canada.