It was supposed to be Lanette Johnson’s day off from her job at Best Buy, one she would spend with her then-4-month-old son, Logan.
But that day in October 2017, Johnson’s manager said her Arlington, Va., store was scheduled for an important visit from corporate. Could Johnson find someone to watch Logan and come in?
The day care Logan would soon attend had pushed back his start date, so that wasn’t an option. Family members who had been helping Johnson couldn’t watch Logan that day, either. And so, Johnson brought Logan to work, delivering her presentation while her baby slept in his stroller a few feet away.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to bring him, but I had a responsibility here, as well,” Johnson said.
Now, Johnson and Logan are the inspiration behind Best Buy’s new backup child-care benefit for all full-time and part-time employees. Workers at nearly 1,000 U.S. stores, distribution centers and corporate headquarters have access to 10 days of subsidized care each year through a Best Buy partnership with Care.com. The benefit covers up to 10 hours of child care at a day-care center or at an employee’s home. For the employee, the only fee is a $10 a day co-pay.
Johnson didn’t realize at the time that her spontaneous “bring a child to work day” would spark a company-wide change. A human resources manager was in the Arlington store the day Johnson brought Logan to work and advocated for the benefit up through the corporate chain.
Best Buy’s program taps into a nationwide demand for affordable child-care options for working parents, particularly in emergency situations. Seventy-two percent of parents say their work day has been affected by child care that fell through, according to a Care.com survey. To make sure their children were taken care of, 67 percent of parents said they used a sick day, 56 percent were late to work and 39 percent took a vacation day.
American businesses lose approximately $4.4 billion each year because child-care issues keep their employees from coming to work, according to Child Care Aware, which advocates for affordable child care.
Johnson, who lives in Maryland, is a 14-year Best Buy veteran, having started out as a seasonal worker and advancing her way up to managing 15 employees. She’s responsible for producing sales from mobile and smart home devices, and steering training and development for her employees.
“Me being a manager in the building, I can’t always take off when I want to,” she said.
Sheila Lirio Marcelo, founder, chairwoman and chief executive of Care.com, said having reliable access to backup care does more than save a parent in a pinch. If employees don’t have to fixate on emergency care, companies help boost workers' productivity and focus at work. Backup child-care benefits are one way companies show and investment in their workforces, Marcelo said.
“It’s meaningful, not only for the peace of mind of their employees, but also for the economic benefit to the company,” Marcelo said.
Logan, who turns 18 months old later this week, is now in day care full time. But Johnson knows that at times when Logan gets sick or the center is closed, she won’t have to sacrifice one of her own sick or vacation days.
She’s already made use of Best Buy’s backup care. (The company has slowly been rolling the benefit out.) After creating an account through Care.com, Johnson put in a request for a backup care, chose which caregiver she wanted, and hours later, the babysitter was at her house, ready to go over a feeding and play schedule for the next eight hours. Johnson said one of her employees also used backup care for his daughter, who was born two days before Logan.
Asked how it felt to know the benefit all started with her? Johnson settled on “humbling.”
“For something so small like that to be able to affect everyone so no one else would have to go through that,” Johnson said, “it was very inspiring and very humbling for me.”