Working mums are a key part of a growing contingent workforce of freelancers, consultants and part-timers, but despite government policies
Research carried out by John Williams, Head of Marketing at Instant Offices found working mums are increasingly frustrated by the type of office space they work in as they often fail to cater for their needs and alleviate the pressures of a busy working life combined with lifestyle and family obligation.
In fact, one in five UK working mums left their jobs because a flexible working request has been turned down. So what can employers do to combat this issue and help retain a workforce of mums?
Blending lifestyle and work for working mums
According to UniSpace, lifestyles and workplaces are blending, as the working day demands more of our time and technology encourages an “always available” work culture. For this reason, and mothers in particular, Instant Office designers have started to recognise the pressure to achieve a lifestyle and workplace balance – particularly for those who are in part-time roles and arguably have to juggle time more than ever before.
The data, compiled in partnership with WorkingMums.co.uk shows that the number of female workers seeking part-time work, at all levels of the company, is increasing rapidly, but that the number of available opportunities is failing to increase at the same rate.
What do the numbers say?
Of the 2,000 women surveyed nearly one in five (18%) UK working mum said they’ve been forced to leave their jobs because a flexible working request had been turned down.
Breaking down the statistics, around 12% said their employer didn’t seem to consider their request, and over a quarter (27%) said the reason given for turning down their request was because it didn’t fall within flexible working legislation.
A further 41% on maternity leave said the refusal of flexible working would mean they might not return to their job, while 50% said they had not even discussed flexible working before going on maternity leave. In fact, over half of (60%) of the women admitted to changing jobs after maternity leave.
The availability of flexible working is the key career development issue for working mums, with homeworking being valued highly, particularly for those wanting to work full-time. Other barriers included childcare costs – half of the women currently on maternity leave said childcare costs could prevent them from returning to work.
The rise of female workspaces
The growth of the contingent workforce has been one of the drivers behind the move towards coworking. The rise of female-specific coworking spaces is a significant extension to this trend and highlights some of the limitations of conventional space for female workers.
Due to the lack of flexibility, female-only workspaces such as the US-based The Wing, are on the rise – created to cater for busy mothers and women by having onsite creches, childminding, gyms, hairdressers and cafes.
While these spaces may initially be viewed as coworking spaces, their ultimate objective is to become networks that facilitate female entrepreneurship and support women at every stage of their journey,” said Willams.
Creating a balanced workplace
Following responses from a survey by Instant Offices, here are some tips that employers should consider in creating a balanced workplace for all employees:
- Flexible Policies that benefit all parents: Offering a number of ‘family days’ for both mum and dad to attend assemblies and doctor’s appointments, etc… would enable a fairer system for all involved.
- Choice of Mobile Working Options: Flexible working with multiple offices/sites and 4G connectivity would greatly help allow fully mobile working for parents who are on the go.
- Work-life by balance and flexibility for all employees: Providing company-sponsored childcare schemes that would include on-site childcare would improve quality and offer a more practical solution. This includes providing more private space to facilitate phone calls to carers, more flexible hours to work around pick up/drop off hours, and a change in working hours during long summer holidays.
Providing integration of workplace and lifestyle elements in the workplace helps to alleviate pressure on work/life balance – and brings to light recognition of the demands the working day places on them.