One of the best things about working for myself is that I get to make my own hours. Gone are the days when I have to ask “permission” to leave early to attend an event at my daughter’s school, or feeling guilty for having to stay home to take care of sick kids. Being a working mom is like walking on a tightrope, trying desperately to balance your work life and your home life. Some employers make it easy by implementing programs in the workplace that help all of their employees be flexible so that they can juggle all of their duties seamlessly. But even still, there are more companies who seem to make it more difficult to request time off or to help employees with time management than those who have more flexible initiatives in place.
So I ask this question to those of you who are working for an employer: how flexible is your workplace?
When I worked in Human Resources, there were few flexible programs at the jobs to help employees. As a mom of two, I often advocated for other employees who had children, but was often met with a cold shoulder. The thought by the higher ups was this—it’s not fair to those without children to make exceptions for those that do have children. And, in a perfect black and white world, that might have been true. But of course there were many areas of gray that needed to be examined.
Some jobs offer flex hours in the workplace—meaning as long as you complete your required 40 hour work week, it doesn’t matter when you clock in or when you clock out. This doesn’t help every business, but the statistics do show that employers who offer flex hours have more employee retention and increased productivity.
Some employers also offer programs such as on-sight daycare which help parents feel better about working and leaving their children. Offering these services often cost a lot of money for the employee, and unless it’s a huge company, is usually not offered. But again, when these services are offered, employee attendance is robust and there are less absences.
Since 1993, all employers have to comply with FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), which protects employees from being fired or discharged for missing work due to maternity leave, certain medical procedures, and other items. Before FMLA, an employer could fire or discharge a worker who left on maternity leave or got sick and had to miss work for an extended period of time. FMLA does not cover every medical reason (there are specific qualified reasons) such as family military leave, pregnancy, and the adoption of a child or placement in foster care. FMLA is unpaid, however, and is for a maximum of 12 weeks. Anything over that would fall under “short term disability”, which not all companies offer.
Having a flexible workplace also includes people with disabilities and enhancements to make sure that those with disabilities can work in the workplace. Your office should have (within reason) ramps and entrances and exits for wheelchairs, handicapped accessible parking spaces, etc.
Coming up with flexible initiatives for human resources and company management is something that I feel strongly about. What would you like to see changed in your workplace as it relates to flexibility? How would you rate the flexibility of your current employer?