For many people, what a job pays—and the benefits it offers—are important things to consider. But for working parents, both of those things are trumped by work flexibility, according to a new survey from FlexJobs.
In the survey, when asked what the “most important” factors in a potential job are, 84% of working parents named work flexibility, followed by work-life balance (80%). Salary (75%) and health insurance (42%) came in third and fourth on the list.
“It was surprising to us the extent to which parents placed work flexibility above so much else,” says Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs.
One of the problems for parents, it seems, is that once they have children, there are competing demands on their time. “When children are young and they’re in daycare or preschool, those tend to line up more with a work schedule,” Reynolds says. “But when it comes to kids who are in school, you hit those hours that aren’t compatible with typical work hours.”
And while a majority of employers say they offer flexible work options, few of them do so in a strategic way. They may have a general policy that says they offer work flexibility, but as far as making it something that’s concrete, easily understood and accessible to employees, they’re not quite there yet. “What we’re trying to encourage companies to do is really finalize their flexible work programs,” Reynolds says.
Lack of flexibility is what led John Mauck to leave his human resources job at a casino six years ago. “As you can imagine, casinos are a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year open business,” says Mauck, 47. “My family lived 15 minutes from the casino, and I wanted to spend time with them.” This was especially true after the birth of his daughter, so he started looking for a new position.
Today he works for a company that offers a much more reasonable work-life balance. “The owner/president encouraged time with family,” Mauck says. “If my daughter was sick, I could stay home and try to work from there. The company had more flexibility to be more accommodating.” Mauck will be pursuing his doctorate this fall—with the full support of his firm.
For Jenn Barber, a significant raise and a promotion weren’t enough to keep her in her previous job. “It became difficult to schedule around changes in nanny needs and calendars,” Barber says. “And when [the kids] started going to school, my husband and I had to play rock-paper-scissors to figure out who was going to stay home with them when they were sick.”
After a stint as a stay-at-home mom to her children, ages 5 and 2, she’s now a freelance marketing consultant. “It offers the flexibility I need to take the kids to their activities, or to stay home with them when they’re sick or if their school is closed,” she says.
When it comes to flexible work arrangements, parents named the following as their ideal scenarios:
- 100% telecommuting (89%)
- Flexible schedules (74%)
- Part-time schedules (51%)
- Partial telecommuting (49%)
- Alternative schedules (49%)
- Freelance options (42%)
One of the reasons parents desire a more flexible work arrangement is so they can be more involved in their children’s schools. In fact, 93% of working parents said that flexibility at work would boost their volunteerism there or at other organized activities.
“It’s not just a benefit for parents and kids and employers, but schools themselves benefit,” Reynolds says. “Companies could make it easier and more beneficial for everybody by making it more obvious how everybody can do this.”
(Photo from Donnie Ray Jones on Flickr)
This article was written by Kate Ashford from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.