Tag Archives: work-life balance

If affordable childcare is the answer for working mothers, what’s the question…?

30 Jan

How interesting it is to hear from the Department for Education that, if only childcare were more affordable and available, then more women would go back into the workplace. Its Childcare and Early Survey of Parents 2012-13 found that more than half of women (54%) currently staying at home with their kids would prefer to work. Just that they can’t afford to.

With the number of working mothers increasing from 60% in 2011 to 64% in 2012, and those working full time rising from 24% to 29%, more than half of mothers in work said having reliable childcare was “the most helpful arrangement which would help them to go out to work”.

The statistics show that nearly four in five families use some kind of childcare while during term times, whether that’s paid-for services like nurseries or childminders (64%) or grandparents, parents and friends (40%), or a mix of both (27%). And 46% of families with school-aged children used formal childcare in the holidays.

Some of the more interesting figures come from mothers already working:

  • 37% would prefer to stay at home and look after the kids if they could afford it.
  • 57% said they would like to work fewer hours and stay at home more with the kids if they could afford it.
  • 23% would like to work more if they could have affordable, convenient and reliable childcare.

From these statistics, working mothers would like to work less, and stay-at-home-mums would like to work more. All of which is dependent on flexible, independent childcare that doesn’t eat into most of the working mother’s income.

Great to have the stats, Department for Education. But what needs to change as a result of this survey is more affordability and reliability of childcare. So what’s the question…?


Launch of first ever ‘Bar Nursery’ to support female barristers’ careers

16 Apr

The Bar Council has launched the first ever ‘Bar Nursery‘, a childcare facility in central London, to help barristers with children honour their work and family commitments.

The Bar Nursery at Smithfield House – near the Inns of Court – will offer flexible, discounted childcare from 7am to 7pm for children aged eight weeks to five years old. The idea is to “ease the pressure” on self-employed barristers, who otherwise may be put off joining the profession. The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, may open up further Bar Nurseries across the country, depending on demand.

Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar, says:”It is important that members of the profession are not discouraged from starting a family because of their work, which could have a detrimental effect particularly on the number of women choosing a career at the Bar. It could also see talented practitioners leaving the self-employed Bar for a more stable working life in employed practice, or even another profession.”

It’s not often you hear of initiatives like this that are practical and take care of short-term priorities as well as keeping a long-term view of talent and diversity. If only other professions could follow suit.

Women with ‘elite’ education are increasingly opting out of full-time work

11 Apr

Work-life balance has taken a new turn. The higher the levels of study, the higher the chance that women will choose to opt-out of full-time work, says a study from Vanderbilt University.

The research found that 60% of female graduates from elite colleges are working full-time compared to 68% of women from other schools. Children are the key factor in hours women choose to work. Among graduates from ‘elite’ colleges, married women without children are 20 percentage points more likely to be employed than those with children.

The biggest difference is with women who have MBAs. Married mothers with an MBA and a first degree from a selective school are 30 percentage points less likely to be employed full-time than graduates of less selective schools, the study found.

Even though elite graduates are more likely to earn advanced degrees, marry at later ages and have higher expected earnings, they are still opting out of full-time work at much higher rates than other graduates, especially if they have children,” says Vanderbilt professor of law and economics Joni Hersch.

For a more in-depth understanding of her findings, read her full report: Opting Out among Women with Elite Education.

Majority of working women believe they can ‘have it all’

2 Mar

LI_Women@Work_thumbnailTwo-thirds (63%) of working women prize work-life balance over their pay check, and three-quarters(74%) really believe they can have it all. These are the key findings from LinkedIn’s ‘What Women Want @ Work’ study, released to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March.

The emphasis for working women today is firmly on flexible working. Nearly two thirds (65%) of the 5,300 women who took part in the survey globally said they would like greater flexibility at workplace. And 80% believe a flexible work environment is the most important factor in determining the ‘success of the next generation of professional women’ – even more important than having more women in top jobs.

Having an interesting job was important for 58% of respondents, compared with 45% who prioritised salary. Interestingly, more than half (57%) of women without children thought having a child wouldn’t affect their careers, compared with 43% who do have children.

Another interesting fact emerging from the study is that 71% of women said their appearance Continue reading

Less presenteeism and more flexibility can help reduce workplace stress

6 Oct

I’ve never been able to tolerate martyrdom in the office: the people who sniff and shuffle to their desks, struggling through the day, spreading germs as they go – and all because they feel guilty about taking time off.

Presenteeism – turning up to work no matter what, in the belief that people will think you’re not committed to your job – is making workplace stress levels worse, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Simplyhealth Absence Management Report 2011.

Presenteeism is just one of the factors cited as exacerbating stress, which is now the number-one cause of long-term sickness absence. Over a quarter of organisations surveyed said they had seen an increase in the number of people coming to work ill in the last 12 months, and two-fifths noted an increase in mental health problems. The report says: “Such presenteeism can negatively affect an organisation’s productivity, not only if illness is transmitted to other colleagues, but also because ill employees are likely to work less effectively than usual, may be more prone to costly mistakes and take longer to recover from their illness. Presenteeism is also a sign of anxiety. Failure by organisations to address employees’ concerns may lead to mental health problems and costly longer- term consequences.”

Lack of job security is a major factor, especially in the public sector, where half of employers report an increase in stress-related absence over the past year. Stress is worse in organisations planning to make redundancies – not surprising, really, especially as half of employers use absence records as part of their criteria when deciding who to make redundant.

Other top causes of stress are workloads, management style, family issues, and organisational change. Home/family responsibilities are in the top five most common causes of absence for two-fifths of organisations.

CIPD recommends that organisations lead from the top in promoting attendance, and supporting line managers in helping to deal with stressed employees. They should also foster an “open and supportive culture” where people feel they can take time off when genuinely ill, and they should make a serious commitment to flexible working practices to allow people to juggle the various aspects of their lives.

Could more time be the secret to workplace happiness?

4 Oct

The beautiful weather may have prompted unseasonally sunny demeanours this week, but there’s no hiding the cloud of unhappiness that’s hanging over the UK’s workforce, according to two surveys that gauge the nation’s happiness.

The Happiness at Work Index from recruitment firm Badenoch & Clark reveals that just a third (36.5%) of workers are happy in their jobs. A quarter said they were “distinctly unhappy” – and levels of unhappiness have been falling this year. The company’s managing director Nicola Linkleter puts this down to “a lack of tangible job security, longer hours, increased financial strain at work and home, and reticence from senior management to invest in additional talent”, and says that workplace morale should be addressed as a business-critical issue.

The delicate balance between work and home is the subject of the second survey, from My Family Care. Its Working Parents & Carers Flexible Working Survey 2011 reveals that just 40% of the 40,000 respondents were happy or very happy with their work/life balance.

Interestingly, there is a correlation between flexible working and being happy with their work-life balance: two-thrids (64%) of people  who are ‘very happy’ with their working pattern say they are ‘really committed’ to their employer, compared with 23% in the ‘very unhappy’ category who feel similarly committed to their employer. Happiness links to productivity, say respondents. However, flexibility does not equal career progression, with 54% in the ‘very happy’ group concerned that that their promotion prospects may be hindered by working flexibly.

So, what’s the common denominator in all of this? There’s no magic cure to the unhappiness, but I agree with one of the conclusions reached by the My Family Care survey: that the underlying issue is the pressure caused by lack of time. Working parents have jobs, children, possibly elderly parents to take care of; so many “mandatory” elements to their lives. The survey adds: “So ways to save time and use it more productively will nearly always help; from the practical – working from home during rush hour and putting convenient childcare in place, to the developmental – training designed to help workload management and productivity for flexible working.”

Flexibility is key for working mothers to forge career – and why the US is ahead of the UK

15 Sep

Forward-thinking companies are prioritising work-family balance for women (pic credit: Istockphoto)

Working mums value the ability to work flexibly much more highly than pay or time off, according to the latest survey from US magazine Working Mother.

Its 2011 Working Mother 100 Best Companies report reveals that it’s the organisations that empower mothers to create their own weekly schedule and career path – while still delivering on objectives – that have come highest in the rankings.

The Working Mother 100 Best Companies answer 650 questions, including data on the access and use of flexible work arrangements for commuting, childcare and eldercare reasons, and the advancement of women to all levels of management. The top 10 companies are Bank of America, Deloitte, Discovery Communications, Ernst & Young, General Mills, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Prudential Financial, TriHealth and WellStar.

In the US, some of the initiatives offered by leading companies are job sharing, compressed work weeks to allow for longer weekends, and flexible start and finish times. So far, so great. However, what I find most interesting are the initiatives to allow new mothers to phase their return to work on a temporary part-time basis, the “option for employees to speed or slow their advancement without penalty to help them better balance work and home responsibilities”.

This would take a lot of planning, but it feels a healthy and honest step towards retaining talented staff and acknowledging that sometimes those in the fast lane may need to slow down and have a pit stop – without penalising their progress.

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