Flexibility Is Key
Have you ever asked why something is done a certain way and been given the response, “That’s how we’ve always done it.”? I guess that’s a good idea if one is attempting to preserve some kind of sacred tradition, but it’s not the best way to run a company. Unfortunately, I think many organizations are operating under this premise when it comes to many things, at the detriment of their employees. We’ve discussed both the reality of burnout among workers as well as the need for leaders to be empathetic, and both of those topics could be more closely addressed in regard to the need for companies to be more flexible.
What do I mean? If you have been paying any attention to the news surrounding employment in the United States, you are likely aware of the phenomenon being called, “The Great Resignation.” It basically asserts that people are leaving the workforce at record numbers, higher than any other time in history. One demographic that has been especially likely to leave the traditional work force has been working parents. “Married To The Job No More: Craving Flexibility, Parents Are Quitting To Get It,” an article posted online by McKinsey & Company, states that, “…parents were more likely to have left their jobs over the past several months than their nonparent counterparts. Reasons include exhaustion from the competing pressures of working from home and juggling childcare responsibilities, struggles with returning to the office but not finding consistent childcare, and reevaluating their overall work–life balance.” It seems that more people, working parents especially, are starting to put self-care higher on their priority lists. Mental health educator Lauren Ruth Martin is an advocate for prioritizing healthy work-life balance. She states on her website, “We need to find the power in putting our wellness first…I believe that life needs to be lived before retirement”. That’s exactly the kind of shift in thinking that is causing more working parents to leave, and I am here for it. What can corporations do to address this?
The flexibility component is key for many working parents, and it is definitely an area that companies can improve upon in order to retain this demographic. The same McKinsey & Company article lists a few adjustments that some companies are making to create more flexible work environments, specifically for working parents, but that could also benefit other workers who may need those changes. Some examples are: decreased working hours, optional down-shifting for extended periods of time, job-sharing where a contracted or temporary worker is hired to come in and do a percentage of the employee’s work, or a “floating” day every week when a worker has the flexibility to run errands or attend events with his/her family. Other companies are instituting on-site childcare for the working parents, which is an amazing way to show empathy and prove that the company places value on their team’s well-being in addition to the company’s success. I am extremely partial to the flexible and non-traditional schedules. I often tell the contractors I hire, “I don’t care what time you get the work done, as long as it gets done.” Another interesting possibility is the use of flexible PTO. According to Indeed.com, flexible PTO is, “a time-off policy that gives employees an unlimited amount of paid time off (PTO) days. In most cases, the hours that employees take off do not have to first be earned or accrued.” If flexible PTO, non-traditional schedules, decreased working hours and other radical changes to the traditional work structure are necessary to obtain and maintain working parents and happier employees, making that adjustment is a no-brainer.
The workforce is rapidly evolving. We no longer need to hold on to old processes and ideas that don’t serve us any more. The successful organizations are waking up to this reality by providing more flexibility, listening to the needs of their employees, and implementing new ways to help make the work environment better for parents and non-parents alike. It’s about time!
De Smet, Aaron, Bonnie Dowling, Marino Mugayar-Baldocchi, and Joachim Talloen, “Married To The Job No More: Craving Flexibility, Parents Are Quitting To Get It,”
McKinsey.com.https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/married-to-the-job-no-more-craving-flexibility-parents-are-quitting-to-get-it. 3 December 2021.
https://www.laurenruthmartin.com/meet-lauren 13 March 2022.
“What is Flexible Time Off? Definition and How It Works”.