Flexibility key to keeping moms in the workforce

Not allowing flexible schedules among the top factors working mothers say makes them likely to not apply, not accept, or to quit a job.
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One in three women has considered leaving the workforce or downshifting careers in the last year, according to a new report.

Working moms have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 pandemic, and as the pandemic continues, many working mothers are battling burnout. Millions left the workforce to assume child care responsibilities. Those unable to quit were left to balance the pressures of both work and family.

To gain insight into working mothers’ unique perspectives, FlexJobs recently surveyed over 700 working mothers between July and August 2021. The survey focused on working mothers in the workplace during the pandemic and their hopes for the future.

While more than half of working moms (55%) described themselves as someone who both needs and wants to work, 40% are actively looking for a new job because they want to work remotely, notes Jessica Howington, senior content manager for FlexJobs. “The ability to work remotely is a big factor in keeping moms in the workforce, as 49% of working moms know at least one person that has already quit or plans to quit because their employers are requiring them to return to the office.

“Looking forward, many working mothers know what they want their work to look like in the future,” Howington continues. “Fifty-two percent of working moms said their ideal post-pandemic work arrangement would be to work remotely full-time, with an additional 44% preferring a hybrid workplace.”

Flexible workforce

More than anything, working mothers need flexibility in their jobs. When employers fail to offer flexible work options, many working mothers decide to look elsewhere for work, according to Howington.

Of the challenges working mothers face, a lack of healthy work-life boundaries (60%) and companies not allowing flexible schedules (57%) were among the top factors they reported as making them likely to not apply, not accept, or to quit a job, Howington explains. Other major reasons cited include:

  • Low salary (84%);
  • Toxic company culture (72%);
  • Micro-managing boss (58%);
  • Not allowing remote work (54%);
  • Lacking or poor benefits, such as not offering health insurance or 401(k) retirement benefits (44%);
  • Limited PTO or sick time (40%);
  • Amount of travel required (39%);
  • Limited advancement opportunities or career progression (38%); and
  • Not having diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in place (30%).

Companies failing to offer more flexible work arrangements wasn’t the only problem noted in the survey by working mothers. When asked what they think were the biggest mistakes companies made during the pandemic, not fully understanding the stress of work-life conflicts during quarantine (34%) and poor communication from leadership (33%) topped the list, notes Howington. Other notable reasons include:

  • Unrealistic expectations about productivity during quarantine (26%);
  • Poor management of workers overall (23%);
  • Not offering mental health support (22%);
  • Being too rigid with work schedules (21%);
  • Not equipping workers with home office equipment (laptops, headphones, etc.) (16%); and
  • Not giving enough support for technological problems (14%).

Flexibility has benefits 

There are several benefits to having flexible work options, says Howington. For working mothers, that can even mean the ability to remain in the workforce. While career progression is sometimes a concern, 63% of working moms said they’re not worried that working from home will hurt their career progression.

Instead, working mothers see a greater benefit in remote work’s impact on achieving better work-life balance and stronger mental health.

Of those surveyed, 68% agreed a permanent remote job would have a positive impact or be a huge improvement on their mental health, reports Howington. An additional 11% of working moms who currently have a permanent remote job reported that it has done just that.

Working mothers also shared the largest considerations for why they want a job with flexible work options. These include work-life balance (85%), family (79%), and commute stress (50%). Other top reasons cited were:

  • Time savings (42%);
  • Cost savings (39%);
  • Avoiding exposure to illnesses (e.g., COVID-19, the flu, common cold) (39%);
  • Avoiding office politics and distractions (32%);
  • Caregiving responsibilities (24%); and
  • Supporting health and wellness challenges or goals (24%).

The impact of the pandemic on working moms has been enormous. However, it’s just as important to note that the effects of the pandemic on all workers have been significant. Working fathers and nonparent workers are also suffering from the effects of overwork, stress, and burnout, and organizations need to look hard at work flexibility and empathetic company cultures moving forward to avoid the Great Resignation that many workplace experts say is already upon us.

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