More working moms willing to quit without greater flexibility at work, report shows

workplace with flexibility

A recent survey found that 36 per cent of Canadian working women were willing to accept a salary reduction in exchange for a remote work model.

Results of the Robert Half Canada survey of 1,100 employees also showed that 57 per cent of working moms plan to look or are already looking for a new job in the first half of 2023. Of those, 82 per cent were looking for hybrid or fully remote roles and 26 per cent cited more flexibility as the reason they planned to pursue other employment.

Priya Bhaloo, chief operating officer at TAG HR, said, in light of these types of workplace trends, employers should look at their team members as “whole people.”

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“When you’re engaging humans, you want to be able to fit their role to the person filling it,” said Bhaloo. “I think that, pre-pandemic, there were more barriers and people weren’t used to thinking outside the box. Now we know that the rules are out the window.”

During the pandemic, “we had a Zoom window to everyone else’s life and you see all these things that are pulling at them,” she added.

Employers should discuss what “concessions” and flexible options they are able to offer, Bhaloo continued. And it’s not just about remote work, Bhaloo explained.

“Whether that’s concessions towards daycare costs, flexible hours, without it negatively impacting work, that’s huge,” she said. “We’re all in for health and wellness benefits, but maybe, in addition to that, it goes towards sports activities, tutoring for children and even a parenting allowance towards any other expenses. It’s about ways you can make compensation more flexible or fluid.

“The employee needs to be vocal about what limitations are on them that have them looking at potential other employment, because I’ve seen people turn down growth because of the constraints on them,” Bhaloo added. “But if we get the conversations started, we can discuss and find solutions.”

Women aren’t the only parents seeking options. Bhaloo said fathers also are looking for flexibility.

“I think that’s just the narrative,” she explained. “Every time there’s a women’s panel, they ask how she balances family and work, but they don’t ask men. Once parental options become part of your company’s benefit list, you shouldn’t be keeping it a secret. It should be available to all.”

An “abundance” of evidence supports the benefits of having mothers participate in the workforce, said Renée Fullerton, chief operating officer at iHR Advisory Services. “And yet, organizations still struggle to create work environments that provide the kind of flexibility and support needed to keep mothers working,” she said.

Fullerton said she often hears from clients and colleagues who are not willing to sacrifice family life for work and are looking for jobs that will “respect the value their role as a working mother brings to their professional life and the work that they do.”

In addition to the ability to work from home, Fullerton said she sees requests for a gradual return to work from paternal leave and flexibility in start and end times for shifts.

Fullerton would like to see employers being more “proactive” in ensuring the working parents on their team feel supported.

“We all know that the world of work was not designed with the working mother in mind,” Fullerton explained. “Therefore, the burden has historically been on working mothers to ask for specific accommodations, when needed.

“Even now, article after article talks about how the past few years have shown quite clearly that working mothers need to communicate their needs and set boundaries. However, we have to recognize that this is not easily done in an employment setting where there is a clear power differential.”

Instead, employers should “reconsider” where, when and how work needs to be done.

“It involves asking questions, listening and trying new things to find what works best,” said Fullerton. “Adjusting the work environment, policies and practices where it makes sense to do so can relieve some of the burden of working mothers from having to ‘ask’ and  ‘plead their case’, saving accommodation requests for truly unique situations.”

As children and families change, so must the options for parents, said Bhaloo.

“We don’t have that village anymore with a neighbourhood daycare. It’s hard to find childcare and it’s exceedingly more expensive, so remote work is still a huge thing,” explained Bhaloo, remembering times she missed conferences to stay home with her children. “If you’re a parent, you have different needs at different parts of your child’s life.

“The scary thing for me is the women who are backing out because they probably don’t see another option,” she said. “If we lose the old mentality of ‘shoulds’ and focus on what we could be doing, it’s allowing the person to grow and having a huge impact. We are changing the mould and changing the status quo by looking at employees as whole people.”

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