Mobility – The Key to Success for Working Parents & Their Employers

John O'Sullivan
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On: 8 Sep 2016
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We hear lots in the media about work-life balance, avoiding long hours and stress, and finding time for friends and rewarding hobbies. But what about those who are not so much balancing as juggling? Working lone parents and parents who are both working are trying to juggle the demands of their job and those of their children. In this blog, we look at what an employer can do to help parents, without compromising the productivity, budget or security of the business.

Flexible working – whether it’s the hours you do or where you work from – is a hot topic, and as work-mobility solutions become more accessible for all businesses, it is one employers cannot ignore. Employees expect a level of flexibility from their employers now that the technology exists to support it.

After-school swimming lesson. Son’s birthday. Sports Day. Daughter’s dental appointment. They’re just as likely to be found in employee’s schedules as Sales Meeting and forward-thinking employers are finding ways to accommodate them all without compromising employee productivity.

A major study quoted in New York Times Magazine earlier this year found that 63% of employers allow some employees to occasionally work from home – an increase of 29% in just 10 years. And “working from home” is no longer restricted to literally working from home, as mobile devices have liberated workers to work from anywhere – no desk necessary!

The parent who has to wait in the car for the duration of a music lesson, can carry on working. There’s no difficulty and no guilt.

 

How to introduce mobile working into your business

It’s now possible to do almost anything digital from almost anywhere, and employees are relishing the work flexibility that brings. However, the degree of flexibility that an employer can grant depends very much on the employee’s role. “Some roles of course”, says Three Ireland’s Business Products Portfolio Manager, Ciara O’Reilly, “unavoidably require more of an in-office presence. Employers can introduce different mobile working options with varying levels of flexibility to suit the different roles, personalities and needs in the business.”

Once the decision has been made to make mobile working an option for employees, what can employers do to ensure the work doesn’t suffer?

The first step may be the most basic, but it’s also the most essential. Ensure the availability of good quality connectivity. That means 3G or 4G connectivity and decent home broadband. Once that connectivity is ensured, any number of possibilities and solutions open up to allow employees to work effectively and collaborate with colleagues and customers as if they were at their desk in the office. Being away from the office must not mean missing out on meetings and being left out of important conversations. High quality conference call and video-conferencing capabilities are a must. And customer-facing employees will need the kind of transparent connectivity available with 3Connect solutions, which can be seamlessly integrated with traditional telephony, and will connect incoming customer calls to the relevant recipient, regardless of their physical location or what number is dialed.

The right to be mobile

Ciara O’Reilly warns that while this generation of working parents is still “essentially grateful” for the flexibility that mobile solutions provide, “the next generation will demand it as a right. Even now, working parents who have structured their lives around the capabilities of mobility with one employer will think very hard about moving to another who doesn’t offer the same.”

Proven benefits

Mobility is not only important for recruiting and retaining the best employees, it has also been proven to deliver multiple productivity benefits, as shown in an experiment by sociologist Phyliss Moen and M.I.T. Professor of Work and Organisation, Erin Kelly. Workers who were allowed to work wherever and whenever they chose – as long as they completed their projects on time and met their goals – proved to be as reliable in meeting their targets as workers employed on a non-flexible basis. They also slept better, were healthier, and experienced less stress. Perhaps even more surprisingly, their children also benefited – with adolescents reporting better quality of sleep, for example.

And perhaps the most significant benefit for employers was the fact that – when surveyed after a year and again after three years – the employees working flexibly reported less interest in leaving their employer than those who were still working the traditional way.

So in a sense, offering your employees – and particularly those who are parents – mobility of the desirable kind can mean less mobility of the undesirable kind.