Friday, March 19, 2010

Keeping Moms in Corporate America

To all the companies out there that have been approached by moms who want to work from home and have said no – WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? In this digital age, it’s so easy for anyone to pick up her computer, webcam, and mobile device and participate in meetings, respond to emails, create presentations, etc. – pretty much doing just about everything she would do at the office. Because of this, I am honestly baffled, just baffled, when I talk with another mom who longs for an opportunity to work from home even just ONE day a week but is met with uncompromising responses that her company “frowns” on that kind of thing.

In the AFL-CIO Now Blog, James Parks writes about the need for workplaces to adapt to the greater role of women in the workforce and references the 2009 Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation, which takes “a comprehensive look at working women and how their work has transformed today’s workplace.” Following a subsequent press conference, he writes that “the report’s co-author Heather Boushey, senior economist at CAP, cited a poll that shows a large majority of Americans support new, more family-friendly workplace policies. A full 85 percent of respondents say businesses that fail to adapt to the needs of modern families risk losing good workers.“

And that, my friends, is the key – during a time when workforces need to be the most productive they can possibly be, it’s incredibly important to retain and recruit savvy, ambitious, and hard-working employees. Many (I repeat, MANY) of these people are moms…moms who are looking for work-at-home opportunities that provide the intellectual challenge they need while allowing for quality mom time as well.
Flexibility in the workplace can take many forms, and part-time or flex-time is wonderful for many people, but my focus in this post is on the opportunity to work from a home office at least part, if not all, of the week. I left my previous employer because when I approached them about working from home one day a week after returning from maternity leave, they told me I could do it as long as I understood that it would mean I would not be promoted, manage people, or manage accounts. Hmm…essentially, they were telling me that working from home meant I wasn’t as valuable to them as those who sat in their offices from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (sometimes longer) every day. I now work at a wonderful, rapidly-growing company that allows me to work from home regularly and travel to the office (or elsewhere) for client meetings or other needs. I work more than I ever did before because I like the work I do, and I feel a greater sense of balance for lots of reasons (five of them I list below).

Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO), offers great advice for how to convince your boss that working from home works for you. Below, I list reasons why employers/managers should highly consider saying yes the next time you approach him or her about working from home (print these off and anonymously leave them behind during your next meeting).

1. Drive time is eliminated - While many moms want to work (I being one of those moms), most still crave a work-life balance they simply can’t get from being physically in an office 40-50 hours a week plus commute time each day. Between getting ready in the morning, driving to and from work, and being in the office, employers are asking moms to only spend about 2 hours of quality time a day with their little one(s). That’s simply not enough.

2. Productivity will increase – I know this is absolutely unbelievable to managers who want to have a watchful eye over employees, but based on point #1, moms allowed to work from home have the opportunity to work longer hours because they’re not spending an hour getting ready in the morning, nor are they leaving work early to fight traffic and get home just in time to turn right around and drive little ones to an evening activity.

3. Sick time for kids is less of a factor – Millions of moms and dads have to take off work every day because of sick children. Now, even if one of them works from home and sends a child to daycare, she still has to keep the child home for the day. BUT!! If she’s set up to work from home, there are many, many more opportunities for her to get work done during naps and in between caretaking than if it’s the “policy” that she has to take a personal or vacation day just because she’s not in the office.

4. Retain valuable people – Everyone knows it costs more to hire someone new than to retain a current employee. And, when a smart, ambitious mom decides that working from home would make her happier in her career…listen, evaluate, and then TRY it…for the love of God, at least set it up as a trial situation before making a long-term decision. Is it really worth losing her?

5. Create a thriving culture – Lots and lots of articles have been written in the past few years about the changes companies have made to create more flexible work options, and the meaning behind the article is – WHAT A GREAT PLACE TO WORK! Work schedules don’t have to be a one-size-fits-all…it makes companies truly stand out when they realize how to be different.

Now I understand that there are just some jobs that require on-site presence, such as elementary and high school education, construction, and retail, but for your everyday corporate job, where someone literally sits at a computer almost all day long, there is absolutely no reason for an employer to not at least consider a work from home option. Moms will just find another place that does allow work from home options, or they’ll join a growing number of savvy moms called mompreneurs starting their own successful businesses because working in traditional settings just doesn’t cut it.


  1. What a great post! I hope many companies will read this! Alot of Brands are now hiring moms who were at home moms and now haveing them work full time in the office.

  2. Yes, and the bottom line is that unless these moms want to work in an office every day (and many might), it just makes them much more productive to be able to work from home.