Working mothers call for more flexibility in the workplace

by John Williams

Women are a key part of a growing contingent workforce of freelancers, consultants and part-timers. Despite numerous government policies to attract more mothers back into the workplace, retention is still a significant struggle. To find out why this is the case, let’s explore how employers can tackle retention issues and attract a workforce of moms.

Data indicates working moms who return part-time, combining professional careers with raising a family, are increasingly frustrated by the type of space they work in. The research shows that the modern workplace often fails to cater to the needs of mothers and caretakers as they face the pressures of combining busy working lives with lifestyle and family obligations.

Blending lifestyle and work for working mothers

According to UniSpace, lifestyles and workplaces are blending together—the working day demands more of our time, and technology encourages an “always available” work culture. For mothers in particular, office designers have started to recognise the pressure to achieve a lifestyle and workplace balance, particularly for those who are in part-time roles and arguably have to juggle time more than ever before.

A survey of over 50,000 office occupiers showed that engagement in the workplace stays reasonably consistent between men and women of all groups, but it is the retention of female workers that drops, with 69% of people leaving being female (across all age brackets).

Data gathered by shows that the number of female workers seeking part-time work, at all levels of the company, is increasing rapidly, but that the number of available opportunities is failing to increase at the same rate.

The survey shows that availability of flexible work is the key career development issue for working moms, with working from home being valued highly, particularly for those wanting to work full-time. Other barriers included childcare costs: half of women currently on maternity leave said childcare costs could prevent them from returning to work.

The rise of female workspaces

The growth of the contingent workforce has been one of the key drivers behind the move toward coworking. The rise of female-specific coworking spaces is a significant extension to this trend and highlights some of the limitations of conventional space for female workers.

In the U.S., female-focused spaces are a growing niche but are also seen as a more adult departure from the “free beer and table tennis” culture that is viewed to be the domain of predominantly male technology startups. While this is a generalization, it seems to have struck a chord, as female-only spaces are sold out and looking to expand.

Due to the lack of flexibility, the introduction of female only workspaces such as The Wing, a U.S. based women-only workspace have been created to cater for busy mothers and women by featuring facilities from onsite nurseries and childcare, to gyms, hairdressers and cafes.

While these spaces may initially be viewed as coworking spaces, their ultimate objective is to become a hub that facilitates female entrepreneurship and supports women at every stage of their journey.

Creating a balanced workplace

Following responses from a survey by Instant Offices, here are some tips that employers should consider in creating a balanced workplace for all employees:

  • Flexible policies that benefit all parents: Offering a number of ‘family days’ for both mom and dad to attend assemblies and doctor’s appointments, etc., would enable a fairer system for all involved.
  • Choice of mobile working options: Flexible working with multiple offices/sites and 4G connectivity would greatly help parents who are on the go.
  • Work/life balance and flexibility for all employees: Providing company-sponsored childcare schemes that would include on-site childcare would improve quality and offer a more practical solution. This includes providing more private space to facilitate phone calls, to on-site caretakers, more flexible hours that enable school pick up and drop off, and a change in working hours during summertime.

Better integrating work and lifestyle elements in the workplace helps to alleviate pressure on work/life balance, and brings to light recognition of the demands that the working day places on parents.

Image credit: Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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