“We knew we needed this, and there was a strong desire among the employees to have convenient and affordable child-care options,” Home Depot Vice President of Human Resources Tim Crow said. “So often today, both parents are working and child care adds to the stress of daily life. We take a values-based approach to our business and this is just one way we are trying to take care of our employees.”
The approximately 40,000 square-foot facility directly adjacent to the Home Depot Store Support Center off Paces Ferry Road near Interstate 285 is set to open next summer. When it is completed, it will be able to hold up to 278 children in 22 classrooms and will feature three playgrounds, Home Depot chief financial officer Carol Tome said. The company held an in-house competition to come up with the name of the facility, and senior industrial engineer Krista Pierce was announced as the winner Wednesday for her suggestion, “Little Apron Academy.”
Crow said the facility will serve employees both at the support center as well as nearby Home Depot stores.
“They will be able to either drop them off, then drive to their parking spots, or park and walk over to take their kids to the center, then walk through another door and into work,” Crow said.
Brant Suddath, director of benefits for Home Depot, said enrollment in the program will be determined through a lottery process, costs will be comparable with local discount child-care sites and construction will begin next month. Operating hours will likely be 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., he said. Suddath also said Watertown, Mass.-based Bright Horizons will manage the programs and provide staffing for the facility. According to its website, Bright Horizons is the world’s leading provider of employer-sponsored child-care, early education and work/life solutions.
According to a 2008 study conducted by Bright Horizons, 94 percent of parents using full-service child care centers said the service would affect their decision to make a job change, and 23 percent of parents using the centers had turned down or not pursued other jobs because of a lack of onsite child care. Additionally, 90 percent of those surveyed in the study said they were able to better concentrate on the job and be productive because of the onsite service.
A 2007 survey conducted by the company also said 86 percent of respondents said that onsite care enabled them to work on a day they might otherwise have had to take off due to illnesses within their families and saved on average 10 work days within six months.
But while Home Depot may have the largest employer child-care program and facility in the Atlanta region when it opens, it will not be the first. WellStar Health Systems has had onsite child-care centers for its employees at WellStar Cobb and WellStar Kennestone hospitals for more than 20 years, WellStar Executive Director for Retail Operations Allan Bishop said. And unlike Home Depot and other Cobb employer-sponsored child-care programs, including Life University’s Bright LIFE facility open to Life students, staff, family members and other local families, WellStar manages and operates the facilities with its own people.
“The biggest benefit is the peace of mind employees get from the programs because they know they are being cared for by other WellStar employees,” Bishop said. “And they have the ability to check on them, which puts them at ease. Convenience is a big key. The Cobb daycare center is located on the hospital campus and is right adjacent to the employee parking deck so they can drop them off and go to work. Kennestone’s is right across the street and it makes it convenient for those working out of both the hospital and the administrative building.”
Bishop said it is somewhat typical for large hospital groups to offer onsite child care to its employees, and Well-Star even offers extended hours to those operating on various 12-hour shifts. Operating hours can run as early as 6 a.m. to as late as 8 p.m., Bishop said.
“One of the biggest reasons for a hospital to have a day care center is retention of the nursing staff,” Bishop said “Every year, we do satisfaction surveys and we survey employees that use it, and we see repeatedly that they will make comments that they have been with WellStar for 10, 15, 20 years and one of the main reasons is because of onsite daycare.”
WellStar spokesman Keith Bowermaster said he and other WellStar executives credit the onsite daycare centers for the system’s recognition as a top employer through various publications. For example, 28 of Fortune Magazine’s 2011 Top 100 Companies to Work For, or nearly a third, offer onsite child care, and 80 of the Working Mother magazine’s “Top 100 Companies for Working Mothers” offer onsite child care services.
“We’re very excited about this and about being able to offer high-quality and affordable child care to our employees,” Crow said. “We’re expecting a lot of use, and many positive benefits from offering this service.”