Mothers have a lot to consider when choosing where — or even if — to work. The commute, length of the workday, quality of health insurance, amount of paid time off and cost of child care are just a few of things that factor into a working mother’s ability to create a healthy balance between work life and family life. And since 71 percent of all mothers with children under 18 are part of the work force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, companies are finding themselves with an increasing responsibility to cater to this population.
One of the most popular choices that has emerged for working mothers is the “flexible schedule,” which allows for options like telecommuting, paid leave and adjustable hours. In fact, according to a recent study by Bain & Co., a management consulting company, 87 percent of women surveyed said that they’d be interested in using flexible work options.
The survey also found that providing such arrangements seems to be one of the best ways to increase employee satisfaction and retention for both sexes — an effective flexible-scheduling program can improve retention by up to 40 percent among women and 25 percent among men.
Strangely enough, however, while such programs are desired by workers and beneficial for their employers; most companies that allow wiggle room in their employees’ schedules report that workers aren’t taking advantage of the flexibility.
According to the Bain survey, of the 60 percent of companies that offer flexible scheduling, only 17 percent report that it is widely used at their company. Additionally, only 44 percent of women and 21 percent of men said they’d made use of flexible scheduling – a testament not to disinterest in the programs, but the need to further develop existing programs.
Julie Coffman, an author of the study, says that companies need to start offering customized options to their employees looking for flexibility. “Despite the fact that flex models are one of the hottest recruiting and retention tools, they aren’t sufficiently used at many organizations. Companies can no longer get away with just offering cookie-cutter options; they must tailor them to their employees and also provide adequate levels of support and resources to ensure better cultural acceptance,” Coffman said in a statement.
Cultural acceptance seemed to be a major factor for companies that lacked employee participation in the programs, with survey respondents citing “feeling guilty about not working as hard” or “negative client/customer reactions” as major deterrents. Additionally, less than one-third of survey respondents said they perceived flexible work arrangements as being completely positive.
While flex-time may have a ways to go before it’s widely adopted by both companies and their employees, there is some good news for working mothers who feel guilty about juggling a hectic work schedule and family life. An analysis recently published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin shows that children with working mothers don’t demonstrate significant differences in behavior or achievement than children of stay-at-home moms. The analysis looked at 69 studies on working mothers from the past 50 years, and concluded that, “With a few exceptions, early employment was not significantly associated with later achievement or internalizing/externalizing behaviors.”
Does your company offer flexibility? Would you take advantage of it if it were offered? Let us know in the comment section.
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