One of the most important things a workplace can do to support working mothers and mothers-to-be is to provide for flexibility. In my last few blogs for WorkingMother.com I’ve mentioned the difficulties I’ve faced while working full-time and being pregnant. Early in my pregnancy I went through three months of non-stop nausea that was debilitating and made getting through each work day a big challenge.
I’m now in the home stretch with our baby due in mid-May, but the physical challenges I’ve faced didn’t end after the nausea subsided. For the past several weeks I’ve been plagued by a very painful bruised rib that is aggravated by sitting down, which makes working at a desk quite challenging. The only way to temporarily relieve the pain is to lie down flat on my back.
Once again I struggled to figure out how I was going to continue to work full-time and deal with such a difficult physical struggle. I spoke with my boss about my situation and decided to bring in a camping cot to see if that would prolong the time I could be in the office. My boss was 100% supportive of this decision and so for the past two weeks I’ve lain down on my cot for a few minutes every hour. This is the only way I can make it through an eight-hour work day.
To be honest, I feel a bit silly lying on the cot but overall I’m grateful that I work at an agency that supports the needs of its employees. Furthermore, the fact that she made a point of telling me one day recently that I should know she never questions my ability to effectively do my job went a long way in relieving my guilt. I no longer worry that because I need to lie down every hour I will viewed as lazy or unable to perform at the same level I usually do.
There are many studies that show that workers are more loyal to companies that provide workplace benefits such as flexible schedules, paid sick leave and quality health care. I can speak first-hand about this very effect – had I been told by my boss that there wasn’t anything she could do to support me and that lying down during work hours was not an acceptable approach, I would have seriously questioned my commitment to our agency.
Last year the White House released a report entitled Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility. The report mentions two studies that effectively show just how important flexibility is to American workers. The first study revealed that nearly a third of U.S. workers surveyed reported that work-life balance and flexibility were the most important factors in considering a job offer. The second study showed that out of 200 human resource managers, two-thirds cited family-supportive policies and flexible hours as the single most important factor in attracting and retaining employees.
In response to the release of this report, President Obama said, "Ultimately, it reflects our priorities as a society–our belief that no matter what each of us does for a living, caring for our loved ones and raising the next generation is the single most important job that we have. I think it's time we started making that job a little easier for folks.”
I couldn’t agree more. Supporting working mothers and mothers-to-be by providing for workplace flexibility, among other work supports, goes a long way in showing that not only are our contributions to our workplaces valued but our unique role as mothers is just as important.