The Mental and Economic Benefit of Open, Flexible Work for Moms
Open Flexible work gives parents the ability to decide how, when and where they work, regardless of their level in an organization.
Examples of Open Flexible work are: flexible scheduling; telecommuting/virtual work; job sharing; career customization; taking babies to work; part-time work options and quality on-ramps for parents who take time away from work.
When a group of 11 moms were asked if they ever submitted a request for Open/Flexible work, 18% said: “Yes, and it was approved!” 9% said: “Yes, and it was rejected”, 18% said: “No, I think such a request would ruffle feathers.”, 45% said: “No, I am not sure how.”, and 9% said: “No , my boss is totally inflexible”.
These poll results indicate over 50% do “not” have an open/flexible work arrangement. According to a paper on Workplace Flexibility 2010, written by Jean Flatley McGuire, PhD, Phyllis Brashler, Doctoral Candidate and Kaitlyn Kenney, Doctoral Candidate; Northeastern university, Bouve College of Health Science: “Parents suffer greater stress and are at an increased risk for mental health and substance abuse problems when work conditions do not provide the flexibility they need to balance their work and family demands.”
Conversely, “…as working women continue to juggle their busy careers and hectic personal lives, the December/January issue of Working Mother Magazine conducted an online survey of 500 women. The article revealed a staggering 91.4 percent of those surveyed had experienced some symptoms of depression at one time in their lives. “We found that 91 percent of working moms have been depressed," says Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Riss.
Consider not only mental health but, especially in these times, economic benefits. Imagine modifying your work schedule to arrive home at 3pm, negating the need to pay $200/month in after school childcare. In these times, for some moms, an extra $200/month means food on the table.
Some may wonder if providing working moms with Open, Flexible Work schedules occurs at the employer’s expense. According to the Harvard Business Review on Work and Life Balance, “Managers…see experimenting with work processes as an exciting opportunity to improve the organization’s performance and the lives of its people at the same time. They have discovered that conflicts between work and personal priorities can actually be catalysts for identifying work inefficiencies that might otherwise have remained hidden or intractable.”
Even with the latter view which supports the employer’s benefit of providing open-flexible work, some employers are now cutting back on work-life programs and benefits, due to the fledgling economy. An article written by Annys Shin in the March 23rd, 2009 issue of the Washington Post indicates that “with the recession forcing businesses to cut back on workers, employees are increasingly doing all they can to hang onto their jobs and are forgoing many of the benefits that once allowed them to balance the demands of work and family life.”
It amazes me the perception that flex hours seem to emit. Instead viewing a highly productive employee (with flex time) being viewed as just that, they are perceived as a liability, even if their performance is the same or better.
Testimony to this fact is a friend of mine who was just approved for flex time. My friend has the flex time, albeit having to sign an arbitrary agreement and lose participation in various training opportunities and executive events. In this case, did my friend really receive a work-life benefit or retaliation for having children?