Workplace Flexibility Lets Mothers Thrive
Since I started my company seven years ago, a majority of my employees have been moms, women working the majority of their hours from home.
After I became a mom, I quickly realized that few workplaces understood the demands of motherhood and were supportive of mothers. I figured if I could offer supportive opportunities through my company, I could create a dedicated and loyal team.
It worked. I have created a flexible work plan so my employees can work within and around motherhood. We have seen each other through pregnancies, new babies and a host of different life experiences. I feel good that we can break the rules about what hours constitute a work schedule and where work must take place. But sometimes, our greatest blessing can also be our greatest curse.
Children often take precedence over work. Naps fall through, nannies cancel and tantrums get in the way of a typical work day. Plus, with most work being done outside of our corporate office, it's hard to get a feel for how our employees are doing. That's why I asked some of my favorite mom entrepreneurs for their tips on managing a mommy force.
Lesley Spencer Pyle
Founder of HBWM.com and Hiremymom.com
"I've found it very important to clearly communicate expectations and make sure those are realistic for the mom who will be working for me. I also try to give plenty of lead time, so there isn't a lot of stress or rush to the job or project," Spencer Pyle says.
"I do recommend moms have some type of outside help for their children if they work over 10 hours a week. I feel it is not good for mom, baby or business if you try to do it all without outside help." If moms go it alone while trying to work more than 10 hours a week, Spencer Pyle says, "it can create an atmosphere of stress and pressure instead of fulfillment for the mom who is looking to use her creative talents while bringing in some additional income."
President of Mymiraclebaby.com
"I've been in business for nearly eight years, and we now have four employees--all moms with homes, families and this job. I pay the girls a fair wage but cannot offer benefits. So I believe that giving them the flexibility to work when they want and when they can is as important as a 401(k)," Bliss says.
Bliss does have a schedule for her employees but keeps it very flexible. When they can't come in because of a class play or a brownie meeting, she just asks that they check e-mail and help with phones or follow up on issues with customers.
President of The Tanen Group
"When hiring a mom who works from home, make sure she has a good office setup, separate telephone line and office, as well as child care. Obviously you cannot get anything done when you are supervising your children. However, you need to make sure you say that. You never know," Tanen says.
"Second, let them set their own schedule and then tweak it to fit yours. After seven years of working with moms who work for me from home, I've found that people work best on their own schedules. Just agree on the number of hours per week. Then ask them for a schedule." Tanen's company keeps a spreadsheet of everyone's schedule and updates it weekly. "It works very well," she says.
She adds, "It is easiest if people work the same hours every week. However, if they cannot, they need to let you and the team know when they are available."
More than 5.4 million mothers put their careers on hold to stay home with children.
"That adds up to a lot of talented women with experience, education, skills and the motivation to find flexible work that can be done from their home office," Spencer Pyle says.
It's true that not many careers are supportive of motherhood. But as mom entrepreneurs, we have the opportunity to create those careers and change the status quo. What we might lose in traditional hours or work space, we gain from hard work, loyalty and talent. And the best part is: We have given children a chance to be with their mom and moms a chance to be with their children.