Diversity Managers and HR should be doing more to accommodate some of their most resourceful and adaptable staff: Working Mothers
by William R. Dodson
Working mothers have had a rough time of it since the start of the Pandemic, back in March 2020. In addition to the responsibilities of running a home, working mothers have also had to contend with a re-work of work itself. It was difficult enough dealing with the housecleaning, cooking, the daily commute, and running errands when it was required. And don't forget getting the kids to soccer or band or whatever practice back "in the good ole' days."
Now, the inflexibility of many companies that require their staff to return to the office has thrown working mothers from the treadmill into a swamp of exhaustion and a sense of futility —what is commonly called nowadays "burnout." Digital technologies like social media and the confusion around hybrid work have significantly amplified the feeling of being overwhelmed.
The simple fact is that modern U.S. society is not family-friendly. However, companies that do institute family-friendly policies will find it benefits their bottom lines.
A lot of people point to burnout when they are feeling chronically rotten. You just feel bad all the time: without energy, more a sense of futility than of purpose, and without meaningful personal connections. That pretty much fits the clinical definition of burnout.
Unfortunately, modern daily life seems to reinforce the feeling that we are drained of all energy and good will. Working mothers have to decide what the kids are going to eat that day, whether there is enough food in the house, and, if not, when and where they will buy it — on-breaks at work, or after work, or not at all — and if not at all, the question of what to eat arises again. And that's just one aspect of a mother's hectic, overburdened lifestyles.
The body and the mind can simply break down after a sustained onslaught of obligations and responsibilities and self-flagellations. Working mothers feel that there's no one and no system to help out at those crisis moments. So they tell the kids it's OK for them to play a few more hours of video games, because mothers just need a little down-time.
However, it may not be burnout you're suffering from.
Wendy Dean says in a New York Times article entitled, "How Society Has Turned Its Back on Mothers," that “our society’s decision to pursue profit at all cost… This isn’t burnout — this is societal choice,” she said. “It’s driving mothers to make decisions that nobody should ever have to make for their kids.” Dean is a psychiatrist.
A great deal of the impact that family-friendly business policies have on corporate profits have to do with the perception that policies are mere overhead expenses. However, organizations are not doing the math that illustrates how the investments in the careers of working mothers actually save businesses a great deal of money.
A Swiss government report from 2005 overturns the fiction that family-friendly policies cost companies more than they are worth. The report found several benefits the guidelines offer that save companies a tremendous amount of money. Some of the benefits include:
Employee faithfulness to the company -- companies that hold the jobs of mothers open while mothers (and fathers) are on maternity leave find staff retention high. Companies reap savings because they do not have to invest in finding a replacement employee.
Flexibility also reduces the hiring budget -- businesses that trust their employees to meet their predefined results and business objectives find greater staff satisfaction and a reduced hiring budget. Allowing employees to work part-time also reduces costs related to hiring replacement staff.
According to Employee Benefit News, employers spend an average of 33% of a worker’s annual salary to replace just one employee. In other words:
Increased vacancies filled -- retaining staff that know their job and how to meet its requirements were able to contribute to a higher rate of filled vacancies than less-experienced staff were. Companies experienced significant reduced savings on recruitment fees.
Happy Staff -- Companies with family-friendly HR policies saw staff with increased loyalty and motivation, which was confirmed by the heads of the human resources departments internationally.
While it might seem common sense for an organization to simply take care of its people, actively working on retention policies to keep working women on-staff is good business. After all, they are some of the most cost-effective, best-organized, and high-performing workers around.
William R. Dodson is a contributing editor at EmployDiversityNetwork.com. He writes on workplace diversity and Tech trends. His latest book is Virtually International: How Remote Teams Can Harness the Energy, Talent, and Insights of Diverse Cultures (Emerald Publishing Group, September 2021). You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.