I just had one of “those” weeks.
Unfortunately, my son was hurt during gym class not once, but twice within a four-day time period. The first time, he was rollerblading and fell face-first onto the floor. The second time, he crashed into another boy going for a slam dunk in basketball and twisted his ankle.
Thankfully, he is okay.
But it made me realize something very important. One time a couple of years ago, when I was working at a New York City magazine, my son ran a high fever and was in the nurse’s office. Even though I raced to the Metro North train to get home, it took over three hours to get to him—just in time for dismissal and a heaping dose of working mother’s guilt that my kid was stuck in the nurse’s office all day because I worked so far away.
This week, it took me only three minutes to get to my son, load him into my car, and head back home. Yes, working from home allows me to be at my children’s schools at a moment’s notice, not only in case of emergencies, but also for the beautiful moments, too. I am the Class Mom for my daughter’s fifth grade class, and because of the amazing work flexibility I enjoy at my job, I am able to completely customize my schedule so that I can be there for her school parties and still get my work done.
I know for a fact that if I had a traditional office job, I would have most likely had to have taken off from work a few days this week to care for my son. For many, this would mean a loss in wages, frustration with their inflexible bosses, and overall unhappiness at what would appear to be having to “choose” between their responsibilities to their work as well as those to their families.
Work-family conflict is a subject that has been in the news a lot lately—and that’s a good thing. In fact, a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Changing Work and Work-Family Conflict: Evidence from the Work, Family, and Health Network,” was recently published in the American Sociological Review. It found that 70 percent of workers reported struggling with balancing work life and family life.
In the study, about 700 employees from an IT department of a large company were surveyed. Half of them were given work flexibility, meaning they could control when, where and how they worked. They were also given more supervisor support for their personal lives as well, while the other group continued to work under normal conditions.
The researchers of the study found that the employees who were given a flexible work experience experienced greater improvements in their overall lives. They had a decrease in work-family conflict and also experienced an improvement in “time adequacy,” meaning that they felt that they had enough time to be with their families and also maintain a sense of control over their work schedule.
In essence, they achieved work-life balance.
Interestingly enough, the test group, while productive, did not wind up working extra hours. That is due in great part to the supervisor support. Had the employees felt that they didn’t have their supervisors’ approval, they may have wound up working extra hours to “compensate” for the fact that they were able to work from home.
Employers are slowly starting to realize the many, many benefits of telework. Apart from the financial gains (i.e. having to pay less per each employee who works in an office space), as well as being an eco-friendly way to work, allowing employees to work remotely creates a more harmonious environment where work life and family life are no longer competing with each other; rather they are completely in sync, making a stronger, more invested, and overall happier workforce.
Having written career advice for working mothers for years on how to achieve work-life balance, I can safely say that now I am truly experiencing it for the first time. My hope is that you do, too.
photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com