Give your working moms control over their schedules

July 11, 2011

New mothers are more likely to remain happy at work if you offer them a little flexibility upon their return.

If any of your veterinary team members are trying to balance the demands of both work and motherhood, you might want to consider offering them a less rigid schedule. That’s because women who return to work after giving birth are more likely to stay on the job if they have greater control over their work schedules, according to a Baylor University study.

Researchers found that job security and the ability to make use of a variety of their job skills leads to greater retention of working moms, while the impact of work-related stress on their physical and mental health causes greater turnover. The study is published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

According to the study, a flexible schedule is an important element necessary to decrease working mom turnover because it can be used when work demands arise. When a new mother is confronted by one or more job demands, a flexible schedule provides her with alternatives for meeting those demands while caring for her newborn. And when team members are better able to control their work environment and adapt, work-related stress is less likely to become a family issue.

According to 2008 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71 percent of women with children under the age of 18 were working or looking for work, and nearly 60 percent of women with young children were employed. Yet a large number of mothers who return to work after childbirth subsequently leave the labor force. Very little is known about the factors that play a role in women’s work decisions after childbirth.

Job security also plays an important role in decision-making. When job security is high, workers are not distracted by worry or exhausted by strain. Instead, they engage more fully in responsibilities inside and outside the workplace. Security heightens motivation and energy, particularly for mothers who are sensitive to the security of their jobs after returning from maternity leave. Mental and physical health play an important role in retaining working mothers and deserve attention, such as through employee assistance programs, support systems, or more integrative work-life initiatives. If your practice doesn’t offer services, consider adding them into your employee benefits package.