Returning to work after having a baby can be a stressful experience for parents. For months prior to my return, I dreaded the thought of leaving my son. My first full day back I felt torn about leaving him in the care of someone else, not to mention guilty. I pictured him crying and screaming as I walked out the door of his dayhome. As the weeks went on it did get easier, but one thing that helps immensely is having a supportive employer who is understanding and willing to accommodate a flexible work schedule. I made the decision to return to work four days a week, which has allowed me to maintain a healthy work-life balance and helped make the back to work transition a lot smoother for my family.
I’m not alone in this experience, now that approximately 80% of women in Canada work full or part-time; many families are facing similar circumstances. Research shows that stress and illness associated with work-life conflict are common experiences, most notably among employed mothers with pre-school age children. In Canada and around the world, companies are adapting to the changing needs of the workforce by introducing flex-time schedules, allowing people to work from home, or work at different times of the day. In fact, a Survey of Work Arrangements found that in 2005 over one-third of employees reported being able to vary their working hours to some degree.
According to the Vanier Institute of the Family, flexible working arrangements afford employees greater control over their work and family lives, often resulting in reduced work-family conflict, improved morale, higher employee retention, increased productivity, and lower absenteeism. Working part-time and having flex-time options (such as choosing when to begin and end the work day) are particularly effective in reducing time-stress among women and men. A recent study by the University of Manitoba revealed that women who have more flexible work schedules are 75% more likely to report a healthy balance between their professional and family lives than those who don’t.
From my personal experience I can definitely say the support I’ve received from my work family over the past year has been a win-win for everyone. Knowing that the people around me care about my well-being and that of my family has increased my passion for my work, as well as made my home life much more enjoyable. As an employee who is reaping the rewards of a flexible environment, I truly encourage other employers to consider flexible work options for their staff.
We encourage you to share your work-life balance tips or experiences with our readers.
Angela Dorval is a Communications Advisor with United Way and is proud mom of a two-year old son.