Flexibility has been a hot button issue since the pandemic transformed the way we work. Many companies that had never considered flexible work options in the past were forced to adapt. This unexpected shift has shaken the very foundation of the work world, as businesses and workers alike are realizing how integral flexibility can be for success — for everyone.
With this in mind, Werklabs, the research and insights division of The Mom Project, set out to investigate: What factors matter most in creating a flexible work experience? In our recent report, The Flexibility Advantage, we explore what companies can provide that make the most difference, and what moms should look for when evaluating where to work.
Work isn't working for most women
One theme that has emerged in the last few years is the realization that traditional work models that are inflexible and rigid aren’t ideal for most parents, especially moms.
It comes down to support from workplaces. In fact, the two most important flexibility factors identified by Werklabs were Organizational Support, an overarching culture of respect for flexibility needs and care for employee well-being, and Personal Autonomy, which identifies the specific elements of flexibility that matter to each individual.
Bottom line: Workers who feel that their flexibility needs are not being met by their companies are far more likely to leave and not recommend the organization to others.
When considering flexibility, the most common scenario that comes to mind is working from home. While this can be a critical element for many moms, flexibility encompasses so much more.
Flexibility can include where you work, when you work, and how you work. At its core, it relies on the understanding that life — especially life with children — can be unpredictable. Workplaces that have flexible policies need to understand that having them in place alone isn’t enough. The culture must also shift to encompass flexibility and grace.
Factors that factor into flexibility
Having a flexible workplace means more than just having policies in place. It requires true buy-in from the top down to make an impact in workers’ lives.
The 6 factors in order of impact on women’s retention, productivity, and recommendation are:
For flexibility at work to be a success, it must begin with leadership. When leadership lives by example, it shows workers that flexibility is something the organization values.
While employees appreciate flexible policies, they must see them as more than just lip service in order to feel fully comfortable taking advantage of them.
Personal Autonomy was another huge factor in workplace happiness. The more freedom that women have in choosing when and how they work, the happier they are. Most preferred working set days with flexible hours.
While support from the organization sets the stage for flexibility success, managerial support is also critical in employee satisfaction. Again, it comes down to feeling supported. This support can come in many forms, from the comfort level that employees have in speaking to managers about their needs, to feel comfortable taking time off, to having a fair, manageable workload.
Finally, having a supportive team is also important in flexibility success. Most survey participants tended to agree that team members were generally aligned on the importance of flexibility. Where they saw a lack was with leaders and the organization.
Why does flexibility matter?
Flexibility can have lasting and profound impacts on a business. In the words of one of the interviewed participants: “It is amazing how having some sort of flexibility positively affects my productivity and mood.”
Organizations that offer greater flexibility in work have employees who are more likely to recommend the organization to others, not only as a flexible place to work but also as a compassionate organization. When organizations invest in creating and sustaining flexible work structures, they will reap the benefits of employees who will stay longer, be more productive, and encourage other professionals to apply.
Or, as we like to say at The Mom Project, good for moms is good for business.
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