Dear Corporate America,
You are missing out on an entire population of dedicated workers. These people are bright, devoted, hardworking, intuitive, and compassionate. They have no problem starting work at the crack of dawn, and going to bed long after midnight.
Need someone who can persevere through mental exhaustion and burnout? Need someone with fine-tuned project management skills and the commitment to see a job through to completion? I personally know tons of people who fit the bill. Tons of us.
We are moms. An army of mothers, at home, underutilized.
Why, you ask?
Well, for one, you have a stodgy idea of what a worker looks like. To you, an employee is a “steady” nine to fiver, who works in the office during “business hours” because you believe they probably aren’t working if no one is looking over their shoulder. They must be fully indoctrinated with corporate policies and expectations because the company comes first – perhaps even first and second.
Your unrealistic expectations in this modern world are keeping you from taking advantage of an amazing untapped resource.
Limiting working from home
While great strides have been made on improving work-life balance, it is still so far from where it needs to be. I have heard plenty of stories from my highly educated and experienced mom friends to add to my own.
I spent three years working from home at a major company in the pharmaceutical industry. It was tolerable only because I was grateful to have such a flexible arrangement. But I paid for that flexibility dearly when most of my department was let go. The only people retained were those who worked onsite at corporate headquarters.
Beyond this, there is a stigma related to flexible work: that we really aren’t working hard like the rest of your in-house employees. A fellow team member once chided me that I must enjoy sitting home and watching my soaps (when in fact, I don’t watch any TV at all).
As a remote employee, I often felt more committed to completing my work than my peers. I can’t count the times I stayed online to get more done after my coworkers had left the office at five. I freely “gave” this additional time because I didn’t have a commute. I willingly put in extra hours after the kids went to bed to meet deadlines.
I loved my work. I took pride in getting it done. My superiors gave me star ratings during the years I worked at home. Yet I was never considered for a promotion. I would have had to “come into the office” for that.
Providing inflexible hours
Every family has a different situation. Lots of moms are the primary household manager. Those moms may never feel like they can commit to a full-time, in person job again.
Many moms have a career that becomes secondary to their husband’s career, perhaps due to income disparity or maybe just based on family beliefs. Bosses lift their eyebrows when women have to stay home with a sick kid, again. They might even ask if the husband will be taking his turn.
These mothers may have enough time to work a kick-ass 20-hour remote position when the kids go back to school, or maybe spend two to three days at the office. How open is your organization to filling employment needs with truly flexible work?
Sometimes a shift from traditional working hours is all it takes. Instead of working nine to five, a mother may need to work from seven to three. I know many women in this position. But the stigma against the mom who has to leave early every day to be available when the kids get home from school is real.
Did you not notice that this mom got to work long before her manager arrived in order to get her work done? Did you not notice that she signed on from home again in order to finish any remaining work?
Requiring too many hours for salaried workers
I recently met a mom who gave up two lucrative offers for tech jobs at a large consumer goods company. Instead, she fills her time and pockets selling jewelry at home parties for Stella and Dot. Yes, you read that right.
Why? Because both offers were for salaried positions that were considerably more demanding than a standard workweek. One hiring manager said it would be a minimum of 60 hours, and the other required 80 hours per week.
Eighty hours per week? For a mom? For anyone?! That many hours means you need to hire two people. Period.
Sure, I bet you’ll find someone willing to do it. Temporarily, maybe. But good luck getting that from Millennials, who are entering the work force with demands for work-life balance.
Expecting 100 percent devotion
I cannot remember a time when employers were truly loyal to their employees. It’s a bygone era that disappeared long before I joined the workforce. In big corporate, no matter how hard I worked, I was always merely a number. A number that produced numbers.
How can you demand that any employee – especially a parent – be 100 percent committed to your organization if you are not willing to be devoted to them? I can promise that you will never be a priority over my family’s needs, and I suppose, in your eyes, that makes me a bad worker.
On the flip side, your bottom line means more to you than my family, hence your choice to lay me off when I was eight months pregnant. Where’s the loyalty in that?
This letter is from the perspective of a working mom. It doesn’t even begin to touch on employment pains for single parents or stay-at-home dads.
Do the math, Corporate America. With a few conscientious changes, you could have access to an incredible hidden workforce. Don’t believe me? Try us.