On-Site Child Care is Game Changing at United Therapeutics

Two children reading at the United Therapeutics Bright Horizons center

You might say that child care is part of the genetic material of United Therapeutics. After all, the thriving biotech company was founded to find a cure for pulmonary hypertension, a serious disease afflicting the founder’s daughter.

So, when the time came to build out the organization’s R&D and manufacturing facilities in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and Silver Spring, Maryland, maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising that the founder wanted on-site child care to be incorporated into the plans.

“When we were beginning to plan our facility in Research Triangle Park in 2011, our leadership team asked us to find out how to incorporate an on-site child care center into our plans, I remember that moment,” says Holly Hobson, Vice President of Human Resources for United Therapeutics. “We knew the plan was to scale up, but we only had 70 employees in RTP at the time. I didn’t know where to even start to find someone to help us build and run an on-site child care center, but after making a few phone calls, I very quickly learned that Bright Horizons is the leading provider of on-site corporate child care.”

United Therapeutics’ fundamental value proposition for employees, whom it calls “Unitherians” – and a strategy for its long-term success – is to offer meaningful work for its employees, to create inspiring work environments where employees can bring their best selves and do their best work, and to enable the concept of work-life integration, according to Alyssa Friedrich, Chief People Officer at United Therapeutics. “From early on, high quality, affordable child care sat at the crux of our employee value proposition,” Friedrich says.

United Therapeutics’ CEO was keenly aware that the cost of child care can be prohibitive. She wanted to make sure that child care wasn’t a stress point for employees so they could focus on the work needed to achieve the company’s important goals. The company also wanted to ensure it could retain talented staff while they were growing their families.

“On-site child care has definitely played a part in the amazing accomplishments that United Therapeutics has delivered over the past ten years,” says Hobson.

On-Site Child Care: A Competitive Differentiator

For a company striving to attract and retain top talent in the highly charged biotech industry, the differentiation and competitive advantage that on-site child care provides has been significant.

In North Carolina, where United Therapeutics’ co-headquarters is located, nearly 400,000 working parents are constrained by child care needs, according to the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. In Maryland, the site of the company’s other co-headquarters, 51% of families live in a child care desert, according to the Council for a Strong America. The same report found that child care crises in the state are estimated to cost $2.2 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue. The Century Foundation reported that more than three million children nationwide are projected to lose access to child care — including nearly 155,600 in North Carolina and almost 70,000 in Maryland — when Federal assistance provided through the American Rescue Plan ends in September 2023. An overwhelming 85% of primary caregivers admit that child care difficulties hurt their efforts or time commitments at work, according to The Council for a Strong America.

To eliminate the challenge of finding high-quality, affordable child care, United Therapeutics offers access to its two on-site child care centers at rates that are subsidized for all employees, creating a level of equity among the organization’s diverse workforce. According to Friedrich, “The sites open early so that manufacturing employees, who are onsite almost every day, don’t have to stress about dropping off their children. Since the work we do requires focus, we wanted to minimize distractions for employees when they are at work while also providing the comfort of access to their children should they want to pop in during the day.”

“Having on-site child care that allows working parents to be active participants in both their work and their children’s lives is life-changing,” says Hobson. “Knowing that your child is being well taken care of by amazing teachers; understanding they’re being guided by a curriculum and program that is age-appropriate, fun, and high quality; getting updates on your phone that allow you to see the progress your child is making; being able to visit for lunch with your four-year-old or nurse your newborn – it’s priceless.”

As United Therapeutics’ employee surveys indicate, on-site child care has definitely had a positive impact from a stress management and wellness perspective:

  • 95% say using the child care center has helped reduce stress and enabled them to concentrate on the job,
  • 86% say they worry less about their child(ren)’s safety and wellbeing, and
  • 96% say the center impacts their desire to stay at United Therapeutics and go the extra mile for the company.

“On-site child care is as important as the very-competitive medical, dental, vision, career advancement, and caregiver benefits we offer to attract and retain the best and brightest talent,” says Friedrich.

With women making up more than half of United Therapeutics’ workforce, having a total benefits package that includes high quality, affordable on-site child care is critical. "We do not want to lose key talent when working parents are deciding to stay in the workforce or leave after having a second or third child,” says Hobson.

A competitive advantage for United Therapeutics, on-site child care has been a differentiator for attracting, hiring, and retaining employees in really high-demand fields. It has contributed to the company experiencing nearly half the voluntary turnover compared to others in the biotech industry, according to Hobson.

United Therapeutics’ results align with a recent industry report from The Best Place for Working Parents showing that when businesses provide child care for employees, employee absences decrease by 30% and job turnover declines by as much as 60%. “Plus, providing high quality early education for our youngest Unitherians sets the stage for academic success and will help us build our next generation of highly skilled workers,” says Friedrich.

Attracting and Inspiring Millennials

Providing child care options has also been critical to attracting talent. “Millennials are looking for meaningful work and for an employer who thinks about the whole employee experience,” says Hobson.

Recently named a best place to work for Millennials, United Therapeutics offers work that every employee can see as meaningful and impactful. It has taken great pains to provide flexible, creative, inspiring, health-positive environments, including on-site cafeterias with healthy food options and on-site workout facilities, as well as the on-site child care centers – all designed to support employees and help them deliver their best work.

“We also offer career advancement opportunities and the autonomy for employees to really engage and come to the table with their ideas,” says Friedrich.

Extended Benefits of On-Site Child Care

The company’s embrace of work-life integration has helped it reach its goal of making work “work” for its highly skilled and dedicated employees. It’s also helped foster a special level of community, according to Friedrich, as well as created a lasting effect on children who’ve matriculated through the centers.

Hobson has seen the impact directly: “My son’s early education with Bright Horizons at United Therapeutics played a really important role in connecting him to the work that United Therapeutics does. He's proud that I work for United Therapeutics because he has a deeper understanding of the company’s mission from being at the child care center with other employees’ children. I don't think he would've had that connection had he not been at the on-site center. He has high hopes of being a future Unitherian himself!”

Two children reading at the United Therapeutics Bright Horizons center

Subscribe to the On the Horizon Newsletter