It’s pretty simple. Flexibility is often the number one request among working mothers, and can be a key component to retaining them at work. But flexibility policies or programs don’t work as a strategy to retain talent and prevent burnout if people don’t use them because they fear being penalized, or worse, losing their job.
We spoke with 25 companies ranging in size from Fortune 500 to startup to learn more about how employers can create workplaces that attract and retain mothers at work, which in turn creates a culture that’s good for everyone.
When it comes to flexibility and creating a culture where employees feel valued and know they can set boundaries to prevent burnout, employees need to know it’s OK to utilize company programs that are there to foster a healthy working environment, and the message must come from the C-Suite.
Here are three ways leaders can set the tone from the top on flexibility.
- Executives must lead by example
The C-Suite should have open discussions about how they will lead by example to drive the desired culture. The CEO at one company we talked with took a vacation and emailed the whole company to let them know. At another company, one HR leader, and mother of two young children, used extra weeks of paid time off to work three days a week and encouraged those on her team to do the same. Other companies use radical candor calendaring to message signing off for the day or taking time to do something else. Communications and actions like this from the top effectively gives everyone permission to take time out for family.
- Demonstrate that employee wellbeing is a priority
Many companies told us they created COVID-19 task forces, but one branded theirs as a wellbeing task force, messaging a focus on the welfare of the workforce. that The group meets weekly to discuss how employees are fairing, and what policies, programs and communications are needed to support employees during this time, and we believe has a role in any thriving organization going forward.
- Execs should communicate regularly and consistently
Having the C-Suite align on key messages and incorporate them into their communications is valuable to setting the tone, and don’t underestimate the power of a weekly note from the top that reinforces the company position around work-life balance, particularly as companies look to return to physical workplaces. One creative CHRO we talked to repeats a mantra at every employee meeting: You do you. Be good to yourself and set your own boundaries. In just a few words, she empowers employees to define their needs and communicate them to others.
All of these strategies communicate that the company is thinking about ways to prevent burnout and enable productivity at work and also at home — something critical in today’s 24/7 work environment!
This article was written in collaboration with Elizabeth Scott at Nua Group, an HR consultancy.
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