Dear Working Mother,

Flexible jobs, the Holy Grail for working mothers… we all want a job that’s challenging, rewarding and well paid, while still allowing us plenty of time to spend with our family – right? Whether it’s a reduced or compressed work week, includes a work-from-home option or offers flexitime, flexible working means we get to have some control over our working schedule and time to take care of other commitments.

The business world has come a long way in its journey to embracing flexibility, however many employers in the UK and Ireland are still reluctant to offer alternative working hours to employees. Perhaps it’s fear that employees will take advantage… that they’ll be sitting at home watching day time TV rather than working if they telecommute… or maybe they’re afraid of setting a precedent if they offer a reduced work week… or perhaps they feel the need to micromanage and think that if they don’t have ‘bums on seats’ at all times that they’ll lose control — of their employees… their business… their future.

So what about the companies who do offer flexible jobs and family friendly policies? Are they run by a few benevolent souls, trying to make the world a better place? Or are they actually canny business leaders who understand that happy employees are loyal employees… that experienced and skilled members of your workforce are worth retaining… and that having a flexible attitude and work policy attracts like-minded people and in the long run, everybody wins.

Here are some of the benefits these forward thinking companies are enjoying:

Higher Productivity: Employees who work part-time, and in particular working mothers, are often more motivated to do their job quickly and efficiently. They don’t want to work late because they were chit chatting at the water cooler or checking Facebook… they get in and they get out. Job done.

Affordable Highly-Skilled Labour: Small businesses in particular can benefit from highly skilled part-time workers. A small business might not have the need for a full-time accountant, HR manager or Webmaster, but rather than outsourcing, having someone work two or three days a week can be the perfect solution. It means they have a loyal, committed member of the team who understands their business without having to pay the high salary that these roles can command.

Flexible Workforce: Flexibility promotes flexibility. An employee who is empowered to have some control over her work schedule is more likely to return the favour. Need someone to check on something over the weekend, take a late call or put in a few extra hours at crunch time? Who’s more likely to help out, an overworked, unappreciated drone who is suspiciously watched and needs to account for their every movement, or a happy, motivated worker who is trusted to manage her time and get the job done?

Happier Employees: An employee with some flexibility over their working hours is less likely to go job hunting. Flexibility is one of the top career benefits for working mothers in particular and has been rated as ‘extremely important’ by 60% of working mother readers who completed our survey. Companies who value their employees enough to work with them and offer them flexibility when needed, are more likely to retain their best people and have a happy, motivated workforce.

Employee Retention: Working parents in particular often feel as though they have few options. Either they work full-time with the kids in crèche or with a childminder for eight to ten hours a day, or one parent (usually the mother) gives up their job to look after kids. Many experienced, skilled employees have made the decision to do this because part-time or flexible hours were simply not available to them. Offering your employees the option to do part-time hours, job share or have flexitime may save time, money and energy when you consider the costs of hiring and training a replacement.

Wider Talent Pool: Flexible options such as the opportunity to work-from-home one, or more days a week, gives employers a much bigger pool of potential employees to choose from. Full-time telecommuting options mean that a business can literally hire anyone from anywhere, while the option to work from home one or two days a week might be a the clincher to getting the best candidate. Telecommuting will obviously not work in every industry, but there are many businesses that can support this and advancements in technology mean this option will become more and more popular.

Lower Costs: Flexible working options can save businesses money. Flexibility is a perk and can often be used as a more powerful incentive than additional pay when negotiating a new contract, hiring an employee or when it comes to an annual review. Businesses struggling to reward their employees financially can get creative and offer employees a practical, non-financial benefit that works for everyone. An employee may be more swayed by flexitime than a higher salary during the recruitment process… and businesses can sometimes save money on office space by allowing telecommuting and encouraging desk sharing.

With more and more employees seeking flexible work options, and job sites like Timewise and 2to3days.com in the UK and Flexjobs in the US focusing on flexible jobs and highlighting the benefits of flexible working, perhaps it’s time for employers to stop thinking of ‘flexibility’ as a dirty word and see that it can be a win-win situation, that benefits everyone.

Sincerely,

Elaine Lawless
The Working Mother