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22 sep

Hitting the mother-lode – how remote work helps employers keep valuable employees

More companies are setting up paid parental leave policies. Even Donald Trump’s 2018 budget promises it across the country. That's brought a new focus on the costs to companies when their employees procreate.

Policy still varies between companies, and legislation is different from state to state. New parents have to decide on how long they will stay home from work. They might take a temporary leave. They might leave permanently. Either way, it's disruptive and costly to business.

A parent is often forced to stay at home until the child goes to school, to cut on childcare costs. They resign their position and take the hit of being out of the job market for years. The employer takes the hit of losing their expertise. Most of the time, women are making this decision. That's for a whole bucketload of reasons that are off-topic for this post. But that’s why this post talks about mothers, not fathers.

What if there was an alternative? What if new moms could look after their babies and work? The name for this oxytocin-laden Utopia: Remote working.

Case study

At Sara's last job interview, she impressed with her skills and years of experience. They knew she was the right fit for their team.

Sara also happened to be seven months pregnant at the time. With her husband working in a niche role in their hometown, she didn’t want to move. Sarah didn’t want to commute. She knew that would mean extra time in childcare for her new baby and more stress for her family.

The firm realized they were going to miss out on hiring a skilled worker. They decided to make accommodations and offered Sarah the chance to work from home.  She agreed, and she believes that both she and the company have benefited from the decision.

 

The practicalities

In the beginning, the firm didn’t give Sara any equipment at all. She used her computer to connect via a VPN to their network. Once Sarah had proved that telecommuting could work, they gave her a laptop. They've also provided a rapid access point to their internal network.

To begin with, Sara's baby played alongside her mom, as she worked. Sara set up a ‘safe-zone’ packed with toys and activities to keep her daughter busy. Her desk was alongside, where she could keep a close eye. One child became two, and they both played contentedly, knowing their Mom was right there.

Now they are older, Sara manages her day like most other working parents. She drops her children off at a daycare center, and they ride the bus to and from school from there. She collects them at the end of her working day, and they enjoy quality time together.

 

The benefits

Choosing to let Sara work remotely got her firm the employee of their dreams. There’s no doubt she’s a successful remote worker, who has performed well in her role. She started with experience in the industry and was able to hit the ground running. A genius is a genius, no matter where it’s at work.

The company has also benefited from Sara being able to continue to work, even when her children are sick. Unfortunately, their health isn’t always great. Sara estimates that in an office based role she would have had to take 32 days out of work due to child illness per year. She would have exhausted her paid time off allotment and used her Family and Medical Leave Allowance. Her employer would have had the cost of covering her absence (ps. that’s not the only way virtual employees save companies money.)

Sara could continue to work from home as a virtual team member, even when her children were sick. Sara could provide both the role of comforter and employee at one stroke. Her child sleeping or watching a DVD and her working at her desk nearby.

She also feels that her health has benefited. She's spared the stress of a daily commute. She also says that her stress symptoms would have been 'really high' if she'd had to take all those child illness days. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that stress has a significant impact on productivity (not in a good way).

Socialising

Sara doesn’t feel that she misses out on the social aspect of work. She has to go into the office at times for meetings, and she attends their social events when she can. Her line manager also works remotely. They stay in touch using online communication tools. Sarah will sometimes spend the day working at her manager's home so they can ‘hang out.'

Her manager has told Sara that she gets far more work done from home. When she was in the office, she was always being interrupted by people asking for help. It’s much easier to ignore those distractions when they’re not in person. There is an element of ‘out of sight, out of mind.' Sara's manager isn't the first people think of when they're in a bind.

It’s not just Sara

Sara isn’t the only mother who is using remote working to maximise her career potential. In our recent post about Hidden Gems, we talked about Charlie. Another working Mom, Charlie works as a freelancer for clients around the world.

Charlie fits her working day around her kids. She gets up early and works for an hour or more before she needs to get them up for school. Then Charlie’s a Mom until they’re through the school doors and she returns to work. If she has deadlines, she works again once they’re asleep.

Working from home is becoming an increasingly popular way for women to maximise their work hours.  It also means they don't need to compromise on child care. Child care costs now make up an average of 10% of the family income. By offering remote work to your employees, your benefits package becomes more appealing.

And home isn’t the only place that virtual team members can carry out their trade. In the UK, co-working nurseries are a growing trend. These businesses offer childcare in one room, and a workspace for freelancers in another. With one location to commute to, time and stress are cut down, and the workers have more time to, well, work.

A break with tradition

Choosing to have children has meant women have had to make a choice: Motherhood or their careers. When they take parental leave, the workforce loses qualified and capable employees. Families lose income. But modern technology gives us a simple remedy for that; remote work.

Women are more likely to be underemployed than men. There's a huge pool of talent out there that could be more efficiently utilized. If you’d like our help to mine the mother lode for the perfect employee for your role, get in touch today.