The It’s Working Project is committed to helping the private sector successfully bring new parents back to work with ease, as a matter of course and with a sense of pride. Those words are our touchstone, and the key to making them possible in the American workplace? Flexibility.

Employees’ parental return after baby is not possible without flexibility from employers. We have learned this by making our mission the listening to new parents’ back-to-work after baby experiences, or parents’ leaving of the workplace because they simply could not make it work well or at all.  Flexibility is the one key factor that makes for a successful return.

Our Portrait Project is comprised of real, sometimes raw stories of back to work after baby. We have collected hundreds of honest, candid, and individual portraits of parents’ career successes and failures, struggles and triumphs. We are proud to have given birth to the first comprehensive look at the back-to-work experience in our country, told in the first person, through the lens of those who live it.

The personal narratives and data we have collected allow us to communicate with and on behalf of new and expecting parents, and lead workplaces to their goal of creating strategies for successfully bringing new parents back to work after baby. This is why aligning ourselves with 1 Million for Work Flexibility was so natural, because flexibility is paramount in how we advise employers approach the challenge of  parental employee retention and successful return.

We have heard from many of our Portrait Project parents again and again that going-back-to-work without any flexibility is a struggle, one that begins as a worry through pregnancy and parental leave, continues into the fifth trimester, upon return and and stays until families opt-out of the workplace or find alternatives. The success stories we’ve seen have in common employers who have made families, work-life balance and flexible work options top priorities.

Flexibility is the thing our struggling parents have told us they want most, and what our thriving parents have credited as pivotal to their successful return. And the companies we are talking to about ways to better attract, retain, and engage top parental talent are all ears when it comes to flexibility, too. An amazingly common reaction we hear from employers is not questioning, “Why?” when it comes to creating more flexibility, but inquisitively and earnestly asking, “How?!”

The It’s Working Project is proud to be taking the lead in showing the private sector how to execute this on the granular level, while at the same time building a strong corporate culture that supports it: gradual on-ramping, flexible hours, and the ability to work remotely. These low-cost, high-return benefits demonstrate that an employer is committed to making it work and go a long way toward ensuring that great employees stay happy and stay on.

We also believe a true corporate cultural shift towards flexibility is essential. As Portrait Project parent Rachel Sobel advises workplaces, “Be flexible, but be really flexible. Not the kind of flexible where you offer work from home days or modified schedules that come with sideways glances and resentment.”

Some of the Portrait Project stories that illustrate the success of flexibility include Amy O’Brien who works for the Denver Nuggets and attributes her parental return success to a flexible and supportive office, where she was able to work from home two days a week.

Mike Schaffer, Vice President, Digital Corporate Reputation, Edelman, recently welcomed his third child. He says, ”My managers at the time of each child’s birth were wonderful in supporting me and clearing the way for me to take as much time as possible.”

And 1 Million of Work Flexibility’s own Emma Plumb has shared her story with us, telling us that while she has been passionate about work flexibility for many years, becoming a parent herself has only fueled her fire. Emma’s story is one of the Portrait Project’s treasured narratives about how work flexibility attributes to the optimum success both in the family and in the workplace.

If you’re a parent who’s making it work, or who thinks it could be working better, please join our Portrait Project. By sharing your story and lending your voice, you can help affect positive change in the private sector when it comes to parental leave and return. You can submit your #itsworkingproject story online, contact me for an interview at info@itsworkingproject.com, or reach us through our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram channels–we’re flexible!

photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com