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Why Flexible Working is Crucial for Working Parents and the Organisations that Employ Them

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Being a working parent, especially during the pandemic, was challenging. The unprecedented demands of juggling work commitments alongside childcare and homeschooling was overwhelming. But the opportunity to work flexibly, in ways many haven’t experienced previously has highlighted a number of benefits – especially for working parents. Can flexible working make life a little easier for the 13 million working parents in the UK while also benefiting the organisations that employ them? Here are some benefits that flexible working can provide.

Provides benefits to family life The benefits of flexible working that parents experienced during the pandemic has transformed how parents can combine their career with the demands of their family. And there is a reluctance for this to change. According to the #FlexTheUK campaign survey carried out by working families, 50% of parents surveyed are concerned that a return to less flexible working post pandemic will have a negative effect on their family life.

Increases productivity

According to the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43% of respondents said that flexibility in working hours helped them achieve greater productivity and 30% of those surveyed said that less or no time commuting allowed them to be more productive.

Flexible working hours enable employees to work during the hours that they are most productive. For some, this may mean working longer hours than office workers. Flexibility also seems to increase employee engagement (as shown in a recent Gallup survey), and high engagement drives high performance.

Can help parents get rid of guilt

In my work as a maternity coach, I find that many women expect themselves to be the best mum they can be, be present and available for their child whilst also progressing and developing their career. When they discover that this is more challenging than initially thought, feelings of inadequacy and guilt can emerge.

According to Naomi Murphy, a professor in psychology at Nottingham Trent University, whose research focuses on parental shame, “those who feel guilt are less likely to contribute in meetings or volunteer for new projects and initiatives”. For those women who have already put their careers on hold during maternity leave and are doing their best to navigate their new role as a working parent this can be even more disheartening. Flexible working offers parents the opportunity to balance their family and work life in a way that is best for them, giving them a sense of autonomy over their own lives.

Can help retain and attract talent

Flexible working practices are beneficial for both the employee and the employer. The effect of flexible working on productivity indicates that companies can increase employee output by embracing flexibility. Furthermore, having the freedom to choose how and when to work enables employees to create a working pattern that benefits their physical and mental health. For many working parents, the demands of juggling work and childcare means that time for themselves (to exercise, switch off or unwind) is limited, impacting upon their wellbeing.

According to the working parents survey an overwhelming 77% want the government to intervene to create more flexible jobs and 84% want employers to use their own initiative to do so. Furthermore, 69% of parents would consider jobs advertised as flexible more attractive when looking for work in the future. It is clear that organisations need to be open to flexible ways of enabling parents to work and take care of their families. Not only will this help them retain talent, it will help attract talent too. Given that there are 13 million working parents in the UK, this is a huge talent pool businesses just can’t afford to ignore.

My colleague Sarah Turner and I have been busy creating content highlighting the importance of organisations providing support for working parents. As part of this, we created this video series exploring the entire journey of maternity leave, from before the leave starts, through to preparing to return and then the first few months back at work. If you are interested in learning more about maternity coaching and how your organisation could benefit, have a look.

This blog post is a collaboration between Maternity Coaches Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you.

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