8:15 a.m.: My three kids and I are in the car. 8:33 a.m.: my oldest gets out, “Have a good day!” I yell from the driver’s seat and move on through the car line. 8:51 a.m.: I’m at a different school, in a different car line, waiting. 9:04 a.m.: my two youngest are officially late for school because I couldn’t find my keys. I console them, take a sip from my coffee cup that I’ve learned to balance perfectly with lunches and backpacks and winter hats in the other hand, and I usher my kids quickly into the school. Then I’m back in the car and headed to my home office.
I am working on building my new company Inkwell where I match working mothers with flexible job opportunities. Working at home has made me more effective as both a professional and a mother by eliminating commute time and giving me the power to build my personal schedule.
12:28 p.m., I have just finished lunch at my desk when the phone rings, the number of my oldest child’s school flashes and I say a quick prayer before answering – “Hello?” It’s the school nurse, my daughter has a slight fever and can I please come pick her up? My heart aches, I look at my calendar and I have a meeting in an hour, sigh – “I’ll figure something out.” Because I work from home I am not worried about missing out on an entire day of work because my child is sick. I can pop in and out of my home office to spend quality moments with my children and enjoy the important events in their lives.
5:11 p.m. and I’m speeding through the school’s entrance because the afters program at school ended 11 minutes ago and it is $25 if you are 10 minutes late and for each 10 minutes thereafter. I walk through the door and spot my kids right away, I would claim maternal instinct but really, there are only seven kids in the entire room. Seven kids whose parents’ are late, whose parents’ are just trying to figure something out.
Working with kids is a constant balancing act. Having a full nine-to-five job in an office and with kids in school means sacrifice, whether it’s personal or professional. There will always be a meeting you cannot stay late for or a school play that you’ll sneak into the back of right as your child finishes their solo. The two worlds are incompatible – with school usually getting out at 3:00 and being expected to stay at the office till 6, they feel to be irreconcilable. But, do they have to be?
The answer is no. With the rise of technology and the resources we have access to today, the traditional model of the nine-to-five employee is changing and flexible work schedules are on the rise. And they should be! The truth is that flexible work hours are good not just for employees, but for the employers as well. A 2010 study conducted by Georgetown University found that employee stress that is spurred by balancing after school care for their children directly correlates with decreased productivity and increased absenteeism. This lack of focus costs companies money and takes a toll on an employee’s general well-being.
Yet, despite the numbers, companies are hesitant to implement flexible hours. In a 2014 National Study for Employers, conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 38% of employers allow some of their employees to work from home while 48% of employers allow for compressed work-week schedules. This sounds like good news, but the flip side is that while companies are allowing for the rearrangement of schedules, they rarely allow for the reduction of work hours. Additionally, flexible hours tend to come as a double edge sword with employers sometimes looking over those that work from home when a promotion becomes available.
The solution lies in the company’s culture. Employers must be willing to trust their employees to create manageable time tables and to work together to get projects done. Take the accounting firm Ernst & Young. In 1990, the firm implemented flexible work schedules as a way to retain female employees. The firm found that female employees were leaving the company at a rate of 10-15% higher than their male counterparts. Over 20 years later, female employees leave the company at a rate that is only 2% higher than their male co-workers, with about 5% of the company over all utilizing flexible work hours, a significant portion of whom are male.
Not only does this solution offer the opportunity for increased productivity as a result of support by the employer for flexible work conditions, but it also keeps women in the workforce after deciding to start a family. Keeping women in the workforce is good for the economy as well as the well-being of families.
—Manon DeFelice is the Founder & CEO of , an organization that matches highly accomplished working mothers with companies that need part-time or project based help. The platform is mutually beneficial for the companies and the moms. Women get the opportunity to build their professional portfolios while also getting the flexibility to devote time to their families and businesses get professional and expert work at a fraction of the cost. DeFelice is an attorney, mother of three and former Executive Director of a women’s rights organization. She has dedicated her expertise to the advancement of the current and next generation of leading women. Learn more at www.inkwellteam.com.