Game Changer: Bright Horizons Helps ESPN Score

back-up care

Sometimes in sports, it's all about the saves.

That was certainly the case for ESPN in October. Back then, the Bristol, Connecticut sports giant discovered the full force of a game-saving back-up plan when a freak snowstorm brought the northeast to a standstill. Power was out, schools were closed, and the big question was whether ESPN employees could rally to keep the sports broadcaster on the air.

Enter back-up care.

The support was designed for just such a moment, at the ready when caregivers of children and adult relatives need emergency arrangements. In the wake of the storm, school children had no place to go. With the Back-Up Care Advantage Program in place, ESPN employees were able to access last-minute child care and make it to the studio without breaking a sweat. As one employee put it, 'If it wasn't for ESPN KidsCenter, I'm not sure ESPN would be on the air today'. 'Snowtober' proved the strategy's mettle in a crisis. But, BUCA backs up the ESPN team every day.

The support was put in place in 2004 to address the routine difficulties of balancing family responsibilities with sports coverage. Like the athletes it covers, ESPN's workforce is an active team, on the move constantly to cover events 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The same work arena that attracts the largely young workforce roughly 75 percent of ESPN's employees are of childbearing age'can make for challenges outside of work, and ESPN saw the potential for multiple responsibilities to create conflict between demands of job and home. Incidental reports from managers were hinting at dependent-care issues already taking a toll in stress, missed days, and an overall feeling that life was out of sync with job responsibilities.

On its face, it was a work problem.

Management saw a philosophical issue as well. True, covering athletic events is impossible without adequate staff. But ESPN is also highly regarded for its commitment to its employees. Caring for relatives - children and adults - is a weighty work/life issue that impacts much of the workforce. By offering back-up care in Connecticut and beyond, ESPN could stave off an absentee problem and alleviate employee stress, all while serving its whole 6,500-employee staff, from a payroll manager working full time in the Bristol home office to a field producer whose location might change from week to week. ESPN's first foray into back-up care was moderately successful, addressing the need for last-minute care but only in a few key cities.

But a 2009 expanded partnership with Bright Horizons hit the sweet spot, providing an enormous nationwide network of caregivers almost anywhere an employee could land. Employees could choose between first-rate in-home or center-based care for children, and got an equally wide net of in-home care providers for adults/elders. Even better, care could be used for any reason'because a dependent had a mild illness, because an adult needed assistance, or because a spouse, home alone with the children while the employee was covering an out-of-town event, needed some R&R. The program eased minds not only for caregivers, but also for employees worried about the added stress their out-of-town assignments were leaving on partners back home. Word spread via benefit fairs, employee publications, and happy ESPN BUCA clients. Usage skyrocketed. Employees responded to the quality and breadth of choices and ease of registration and usage, while ESPN got a customized, high-ROI solution that could be efficiently tracked and reported, plus a productive, engaged workforce that felt good about their employer.

It also offered more than a small assist on the recruitment front, with top prospects perking up at the support for their families. Most important, Bright Horizons' back-up care got results, saving ESPN 1,048 workdays and counting.

In the end, it netted ESPN gains on every front, including recruitment, employee loyalty, in bolstering its commitment to employees as a valued employer of choice, and even, as it turns out, in a big win against Mother Nature. Click here to find out what the Bright Horizons Back-Up Care Advantage Program can do for your organization.

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

About the Author

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.