Fostering a family culture for a healthy workforce

The Sarasota Chamber of Commerce serves nearly 1,400 local companies representing more than 60,000 employees. Over the past two years, one of the most significant challenges facing these businesses has been the shortage of affordable housing and the lack of labor.

While we remain committed to working on affordable housing solutions in our area—after hosting over 200 attendees at our Affordable Housing Summit in November—this article aims to address the workforce shortage and explore thoughts on implementing family-friendly policies.

The current amount of child care per child is in the $16,000 after-tax range. This significant expense has led many families to choose the stay-at-home option, exacerbating workforce challenges for our companies. This creates a new battle for our companies and workforce issues.

As a working mother of three not too long ago, I truly understand the challenges faced by parents trying to balance a successful career with the demands of family life. Navigating this delicate balance often feels like a tightrope walk, even with family benefits available. This first-hand experience and desire to build our workforce fuels our determination to cultivate a family-friendly culture at the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. We strive to share the benefits of creating a family culture with all businesses in our community.

That’s why the Sarasota Chamber is proud to be part of the Florida Children’s Movement’s Bosses for Babies initiative. Through Baby Bosses, the Sarasota Chamber is part of a statewide network of businesses and community organizations that support and promote family-friendly workplaces. This commitment is critical to both our future and current workforce. The latest figures from the Florida Chamber Foundation show that Florida businesses will spend $1.7 billion in turnover costs. When we look at employee absences, over 55% of all unscheduled absences are due to childcare issues. Overall, in Florida we have a $5.4 billion annual loss due to child care issues.

One of the main strategies that companies can implement is to offer flexible scheduling options to their employees. By supporting and understanding the importance of their children’s presence—whether it involves picking them up from school or spending quality time with them—a company can cultivate a solid culture. Flexible working hours ensure that working parents can effectively manage their professional responsibilities while maintaining their family ties.

Offering things like maternity and paternity leave, parental leave, opportunities for nursing mothers, adequate vacation time, and sick leave is critical to building trust and loyalty with your employees. We firmly believe that time spent with family is priceless, and providing these benefits allows employees to prioritize their family’s needs without sacrificing their careers. Fringe benefits and comprehensive benefits, such as employer-provided insurance, a 401k plan with a match, are best practices among top-performing companies. These bonuses contribute to the overall well-being and financial stability of your team, alleviating the stress of balancing work and family responsibilities.

Our commitment to family-friendly policies is based on a deep belief in community support. We champion initiatives such as Baby Bosses, emphasizing the importance of flexible working arrangements and unwavering support for mothers as they navigate the delicate balance between career and family. As the market for quality employees remains competitive, these are just some of the things you can offer at your company to not only retain, but attract quality candidates to your company. By offering some of these benefits, it’s a win-win for families, businesses and our community. Employees who work in a family-focused workplace are more satisfied with their jobs, more engaged with their work, and less likely to leave the workforce.

For additional information on this topic and to access the Florida Family Friendly Workplace Guide, please visit to learn more about how your company can be a part of this initiative.

As an influential voice in the Sarasota community with extensive business connections, the Sarasota Chamber ( is driven to lead by example. By promoting sustainable, family-friendly policies and business practices, we can cultivate a vibrant economic environment where both businesses and families thrive. Together, we can create a brighter future for Florida’s children, where career success and family happiness merge seamlessly.

Heather Kasten is the President/CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa in business administration and a master’s degree in business administration from Webster University. She has been President/CEO since 2019 and serves on the board of several organizations. Contact her at [email protected].

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