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Level Up: Why Women Want Flexibility at Work—Even More than Stability
Here’s how we’re getting it.
I’m writing this newsletter from the comfort of my sofa, where I’ve worked for most of the last three years. It’s public knowledge that the pandemic shifted how I approach work. Like many working parents, I do more of it remotely, and less of it overall.
That change may be permanent—and not just for me. A recent McKinsey study of 25,000 Americans found that 35% of respondents say they can work from home full-time now, while another 23 percent can work from home from one to four days a week. Researchers estimate that flexible working has grown by anywhere from a third to tenfold since 2019.
This shift has impacted everything from housing prices to child care and much more, but it’s also brought about a sea change for many working parents, who are able to spend much more time with their children.
We’ve covered how the rise in remote work might not be so beneficial for women overall, especially if remote employees are less likely to have access to exposure and advancement opportunities. But it undoubtedly comes with perks for overburdened parents who need more balance in their lives. An Indeed survey of 1,001 women who transitioned from full-time employment to gig work, contract work, part-time work or exited the workforce after the onset of the pandemic found that women are increasingly opting for opportunities that guarantee flexibility over stability.
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It’s no secret that the pandemic strongly impacted the American workforce, and particularly women. Over half (54%) of Indeed’s survey respondents reported mental health strains while 51% had to increase caregiving for children or adult family members, some by an average of six hours a day. Accordingly, 92% of working women said they are likely (51%) or very likely (41%) to prioritize flexibility over stability in a work environment.
While women may be forgoing job stability in their transition away from full-time positions, they are gaining mental health stability. Nearly half of women who switched to contract work reported improved mental health, and of the women who changed to gig work, more than one-third (38%) reported improved mental health. Across the board, women said the greatest benefits of transitioning out of full-time work included more time to focus on other priorities, decreased stress and responsibilities, the ability to take on other work opportunities, greater autonomy, improved mental health and decreased feelings of burnout.
Of course, not every parent can switch to contract work. Many rely on a full-time position for health care coverage and retirement benefits. And many women work in industries, like education, health care and child care, where work can’t be done remotely. But as burnout reaches peak levels in those fields, it’s likely companies will look for ways to give in-person employees a little more autonomy. Not only because it’s good for morale and productivity, but also because they’re struggling to retain workers. In a recent article, Indeed Chief Revenue Officer Nolan Farris stated he has “never seen such a tight U.S. labor market or one where employees hold all the cards.”
Keep that in mind, parents, if you are thinking about making a job switch. Now is the time to ask for what you need—and deserve.
The Fix: 3 Ways Workers Are Finding Flexibility
If you’re brainstorming ways to find more flexibility in your work life, here are some of the arrangements that are becoming more prevalent, according to the experts at Indeed:
Gig work: One of the biggest draws to gig work is the amount of flexibility it grants employees. Additionally, gig work is available to job seekers of all skill levels, and many platforms offer immediate work and quick payments. Examples of gig work include food delivery, grocery delivery, rideshare services, babysitting services, furniture assembly and digital marketplace services.
Choose-your-own-hours jobs: Though these kinds of jobs are increasing, they often have more barriers to entry than gig work since they require more training or specialization. During the pandemic, many people made the switch to gig work because they needed an alternative way to make money quickly. Choose-your-own-hours jobs can offer additional options to those who cannot find gig work that suits them but still want a flexible schedule.
Flexible schedule pilot programs: More and more companies have made structural changes, including adding flexible schedule programs. These programs include flexible start and end times, compressed or extended work weeks or the ability to work from home. Look for more and more employers to offer these arrangements, as demand for flexible work remains high.
Splendid Spoon and Mother Honestly invite you to strengthen your own foundation by taking a break from the day-to-day demands of managing kids, work and everything in between, so you might cultivate deeper personal growth and ambition.
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