As hybrid emerges as a prevalent method of returning to work, several organisations are adopting an integrated approach to childcare benefits as well. Additionally, these benefits are being made gender-neutral too.Integrated childcare would include offering the flexibility to employees to opt for a mix of day care centres/creches from anywhere, virtual care support, childminders and nanny support benefits. Pre-pandemic, not many offered the choice to employees in selecting a mix of childcare benefits. However, as employees begin to return to work in a hybrid environment — requiring them to work some days in office and some from home — they would need a mix of such benefits to better manage work as well as childcare.Insights from a recent childcare-parental benefit survey of 54 companies across industries by ProEves show that physical day care continues to be the most prevalent childcare benefit with 85% companies offering it. Post-pandemic, as physical day care centres were not fully operational, virtual care gained popularity. Today, virtual care — which involves childcare in the form of expert-led online camp, pre-school classes — is being adopted by 65% of companies and IT/ITeS & BFSI companies are the leading adopters of such benefits. Online kids’ engagement is being offered by 46%, one-to-one child minders by 43% and nanny care by 13% of the organisations, according to the findings by the childcare benefit provider, which have been shared exclusively with TOI.According to ProEves, near-home day care launch is being planned by 59% companies till December this year, and companies are preparing for this benefit as they finalise the return-to-work plan for employees. Companies are using flexi-childcare benefits as an enabler to attract and retain talent that prefers flexi working, said ProEves.ProEves co-founder Divya Agarwal said, “‘Flexi return’ is the most prevalent return-to-work plan with 72% companies calling employees 2 or 3 days every week. To this effect, integrated childcare support is the go-forward trend being adopted by companies with half implementing it for men and women. Parents can opt for flexible childcare benefits along with flexi-working.”HSBC India, which first introduced childcare benefits such as creches for new mothers, widened the benefit to include all primary caregivers to help them balance work and caregiving in 2020. “During the pandemic, we added options to deepen childcare and allow the flexibility to utilise the benefit meaningfully according to their unique need. Whether day care near the office or home, nanny care or virtual care, an employee can access a suite of resources on our platform and reimburse the expense according to policy. And as we plan to transition to a hybrid way of working, this shift is here to stay,” said HSBC India HR head, Archana Chadha.