Women returning to work after maternity leave make a valuable contribution to the workforce and businesses that don’t recognise that are missing out, according to new research.
“Mothers coming back into the workforce represent a very different perspective to that which is currently being offered by their male counterparts,” said Nick Bradshaw, country manager for Regus New Zealand.
“That perspective is crucial in growing and maturing businesses and that translates through to the bottom line. Developing that part of the workforce is crucial and the ways that we do it are interesting and diverse, but getting mothers back into the workforce is very important for New Zealand as a whole.”
He said the survey results highlighted the fact that employers were beginning to understand the value of mothers returning from maternity leave.
“We see their place in business, which is long overdue. Some businesses are embracing it, but many more need to. The challenge comes now with identifying those individuals and making sure that as businesses evolve, they open up that flexibility and make it more appealing [for returning mothers].”
The survey also showed the 41% of Kiwi businesses reported women taking shorter maternity leave of less than three months, possibly due to increasing financial pressures.
Bradshaw said that having a family created time constraints and structures that businesses needed to be able to accommodate for working mothers.
“One of the barriers that we need to overcome is creating flexibility and that flexibility is from both a time and location perspective.”
According to the survey, flexible working hours were the most popular measure for returning mothers in New Zealand at 89%, compared to the global average of 85%.
The option to work close to home was considered the most important factor by 48% of Kiwis surveyed, compared with 56% globally.
On-site or nearby crèche facilities, flexibility to choose video conferencing over travel, part time roles and job sharing were also considered key measures.
Bradshaw said that while some industries like retail found it harder to provide flexible working hours when shops were only open for a certain amount of time each day, businesses based on output rather than time at the coalface had greater opportunities for flexibility.
“Take, for example, the mother who can do work before the school drop-off by dropping into a centre or logging in and sending emails from home, doing the school drop-off and get back to work.”
He said that embracing technology was crucial, whether it was a smart phone with email access or the ability to do video conferencing rather than travelling to meetings.
“Embracing that technology allows people to be more flexible and to stay in touch with what’s happening in the business, around their home and family life.”
What workplace measures do you see as being most important for working mothers?
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