Mother's Little Helper: Employer Flexibility

Got a new mom at the office? If you want to keep her, you may have to consider being a little more flexible about her hours, according to a new study.

Specifically, the researchers found that new mothers returning to the workplace are more likely to continue at their current job if a flexible work schedule is in place.

"Having a flexible schedule is an important element necessary to decrease working mom turnover because it can be used when work demands arise,“ said Dawn Carlson, a professor at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business who wrote the study.

“What we found is that providing support to mothers, especially if they had work schedules that were nonstandard, was a big factor in how they were able to manage the demands of their life,” said Carlson. “Providing support to them or providing flexibility to control when they work helped to manage these demands.”

With problems outside the work force taken care of, these mothers are better able to focus on the job at hand, with benefits for workers and employers alike, she said.

The study, a collaboration of Baylor and Wake Forest University researchers, was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Carlson warned that businesses need to be genuine when they offer flexible scheduling. “What we found in some cases was that organizations have it on the books, but if you use it you are penalized in some way,” she said.

Carlson recommends flex time for several reasons.

“The organizations that have used flexible scheduling and done it well have seen numerous benefits, including greater job satisfaction and productivity,” she said.

As for employees, “flexible scheduling can influence and improve physical and mental health as well.”

With these flexible employee benefits , Carlson’s advice to employers is simple:
“Any type of flexibility, schedule control or any support and supportive qualities can help to reduce that conflict and thus make new mothers more likely to stay with a job and not quit.”