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How Akamai Made Backup Care a Building Block for Diversity

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on October 12, 2017 10:00 AM

The numbers are staggering: U.S. businesses forgo more than $33.6 billion annually due to lost productivity caused by caregiving-related absenteeism. And child care issues, specifically, account for 72 percent of absences – more than any other family matter. It puts that periodic lost work day due to a sitter cancellation, school holiday, or sick child in serious perspective.  

But at Akamai Technologies, they’re working against the costly effects of absenteeism by better supporting parents and their care needs. This snapshot of the recent IFC-published case study featuring Akamai shows how.   

Responding to Employee Needs – and the Competitive Marketplace
Approximately half of Akamai’s 7,000+ employees are based in the United States.  A highly skilled, demanding and time-intensive workplace, the hours at Akamai can be long.  And due to the global nature of the company, many employees work outside the conventional 9-5 day. For parents at Akamai, managing the demands of work and home can be especially challenging.   In addition to long, unconventional work hours, many employees are part of dual-working households, and live far from extended family members who might otherwise be willing to help. 

In 2014, Tim Leighton, Akamai’s founder and CEO visited several office locations.  In meeting with employees, a clear trend emerged: there was a consistent, expressed need for more employer-assisted child care solutions.   Additionally, benchmarking showed that the company needed to expand its offerings to stay in line with its main industry competitors. 

Today, Akamai helps support employees with children through generous paid parental leave, discounts at child care centers, au pair assistance, an unlimited PTO policy, flexible working arrangements, and more.  But what really helped the company offer the most competitive, differentiating benefits package in a tight labor market was the addition of backup care.

Strengthening Diversity Through Supportive Benefits
Attracting and retaining top talent in the IT sector is mission critical for Akamai.  And recruiting more female talent is integral to the company’s larger diversity strategy.  The business case is clear: more women equals higher productivity and profitability.  A projected boost of up to $530 billion could be generated globally by closing the female leadership gap in the tech industry alone. But it's not just hiring more women that's a challenge - it's keeping them.  More than half of all women leave STEM careers within a decade due to lack of professional development, dissatisfying work cultures and poor work-life balance

One of the pillars of Akamai’s gender diversity strategy is supportive care benefits and policies.  By demonstrating that Akamai is committed to helping employees better care for their loved ones and more successfully manage the demands of work and life, they’re both winning and keeping more talent.  And working to close the gap.   

Partnering with an Experienced, Scalable Provider
With a directly accessible, easy-to-use online platform, quality vetting procedures, and the largest network of care providers around the world, Care@Work fulfilled all of Akamai's requirements.  With consultation from Care@Work,  Akamai estimated the number of backup care days its U.S. employees would use, with the option to scale up based on need.  The company exceeded its purchased days before the end of the first year, and Akamai increased the number of days by 40 percent for the program’s second year.

Program feedback has been consistently positive. One employee, a software engineer and father of a toddler, says: “To me [offering caretaking benefits] means that Akamai acknowledges the fact that people have children and they get sick sometimes…that acknowledgement that Akamai has, it’s definitely meaningful to me.”  Another employee, a senior software engineer and mother of three, notes how much easier it’s been with backup care in place.  Without it (and other flexible care benefits and policies offered by Akamai) she states she might have had to take a long leave of absence or even quit. 

Maximizing ROI, Productivity and Loyalty
By enabling employees to keep working when they would otherwise have to take off work to respond to a care situation (i.e., sick child, cancelled sitter, school holiday), Akamai is able to recoup the costs of its backup care program.  The cost to the company for a day of backup care is far less than the average daily salary of a software engineer’s salary.  And when it comes to retention, Akamai estimates that if only one or two employees who might have chosen to leave ultimately stays, the program costs are more than fully recouped. 

The peace of mind that comes from backup care benefits goes a long way in ensuring employees are not only present, but productive.  One mother states that backup care helps take away worry and stress, and improves her productivity.  Rather than attempting to work a scattered day from home trying to care for her sick child, she worked a full, productive day knowing she was in good hands.  And when it comes to loyalty, care-related benefits serve as powerful motivation for all employees.  Those with and without children at Akamai state they feel good about working for an organization that values work-life integration - and actively shows it through the benefits, policies and mechanisms it provides to its workforce.     

Ultimately,  Akamai's care benefits and policies are working toward key business goals in recruting and retention, diversity and productivity.  These benefits are critical to Akamai's ability to uphold its commitment to fostering a company culture built around an environment that enables ALL employees to "feel that they can contribute and perform to the best of their abilities." 

This blog post was developed from the September 2017, IFC (International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group) sponsored report, “Tackling Childcare: The Business Case for Employer-Supported Childcare,” featuring Akamai.    

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Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.