A Gift of Flexibility For Our Moms
David Gray is Director of the Workforce and Family Program at the New America Foundation.
This Sunday is Mother's Day and many of us will be out this week buying gifts for our moms. That is the right thing for us to do. As a nation, one way for our country to say "thank you" to our moms is by giving them more flexibility to balance their work and family commitments through creative public policies that increase workplace flexibility.
The changing roles of mothers have been one of the most pronounced social trends seen in the last century. Today, more than 60 percent of families have two working parents. Moms are working harder than ever both at home and at work.
Many women with children find it especially challenging to balance their work and family commitments, and often risk being left on the sidelines of the American economy because they cannot find flexible jobs. Accordingly, many women today are forced to choose between their career and economic success, on the one hand, and adequately caring for their children and elderly parents, on the other. Family breakdowns have also placed particular burdens on single mothers.
Given the unprecedented pressures on families, workers and employers, mothers need more control over their time and more flexibility in their work. Businesses are recognizing that more moms need flexibility in the workplace and many are giving it. Businesses should be applauded for that and encouraged to do more in providing workplace flexibility. Many more industries and companies could offer workplace flexibility than are doing so today.
Workplace flexibility is about innovations in how work gets done. It includes flexibility in the scheduling of full-time hours, flexibility in the number of hours worked and the location of work, career flexibility with multiple points for exit and re-entry into the work force and the flexibility to address unexpected and ongoing personal and family needs.
The implementation of flexible workplaces can be achieved without sacrificing employers' strategic business and organizational objectives. It does not have to mean businesses suffer. In fact, groups from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Corporate Voices for Working Families maintain that flexible workplace arrangements can help businesses recruit and retain employees.
Well-implemented workplace flexibility policies increase organizational success by increasing employee commitment, engagement and job satisfaction. They promote innovations and management strategies that can lead to enhanced work outcomes, employee performance and morale, and help meet expanded employer needs in a global, competitive environment.
Workplace flexibility improves the lives of mothers by reducing tensions that arise from the dual obligations of work and family. It expands opportunities for working parents and those caring for aging relatives, for individuals transitioning careers and improving skills, for people with disabilities and for older workers looking to find meaningful work. It helps support child development and individual, family, community and environmental health.
As we look to honor our mothers this year, now is the time for creative public policy to develop ways to make the workplace more flexible in ways that work for employers and employees—and that honor and support our mothers. This Mother's Day, let's provide our moms with the workplace flexibility they need and deserve.