Women Friendly Work Environments
Meet Arti. Arti is a young mother in her early 30s with two little children. She works as a project manager in an IT company. She is passionate about her work; she has rapidly risen up the ranks in her company. She completed her engineering a decade back and began working as a software programmer. She fondly remembers the nights she would spend at work trying to troubleshoot a bug in her application.
She was passionate about her work and thrived working these long hours. Most of her best friends were buddies from work. So she not only enjoyed working, but also enjoyed the late night movies, dinners and so on. A few years back, she got married. She had a supportive husband, so she continued working long hours. The company also expected more from her now and gave her new responsibilities, she loved taking them up. Then she had a baby. For the first time in over a decade, she took three months off from work.
She found it very difficult to join back after three months. She was puzzled, I love my work, I love what I do, and why is it that I don’t want to join back? She pondered quitting once every week. She started getting stressed about the smallest requests from her clients. Her company felt that she lacked motivation now. But that was not the case. She was still passionate about her work. But somehow a child seemed to have changed things for her. And when she decided to have a second child a couple of years later, she decided to resign.
I am sure this is a situation that most working mothers can relate to:
- A desire to quit, especially when the child is sick or work pressure is too high.
- A tendency to feel stressed at any new demand, a visit to a client or an additional new project turns out to be too stressful to handle.
- The annoyance at the fact that your husband has not had any change in working style after the baby.
- The fact that you love your work and would really love to do more, just that time is never enough.
- You do love the financial independence and the decision to resign is scary, what would you do with all the free time and will your skills become redundant when you join work again?
Most companies also struggle to understand this sudden change in their star performer. So what can companies do to create a women friendly work environment?
- Maternity leave of six months: Give women the flexibility to join back at the workplace when they are emotionally ready to do so. Give them the option to avail of unpaid leave.
- Opportunity to work half-days: Let them continue to work for half-days as long as they desire, if they wish to do so till their child turns 4-5, let them. It is much better to have them for a productive half-day than a stressed full-day.
- Flexi-timings and work from home options: Women are adept at multi-tasking, so they can be perfectly productive working from home. Encourage them by giving them such options.
- Sabbaticals: This option should be given to both, men and women. Let people take unpaid sabbaticals away from work for a few months to a year, have a policy where they inform you six months in advance so that you have adequate time to plan for this change.
- Fixed working hours: Create a culture that provides a good work-life balance. Encourage people to have hobbies outside of work. Encourage people to be productive at work and discourage people from staying late at work.
- Hire women with grown-up children: There will be many women with grown-up children who are ready to re-enter the workplace. Encourage such women, while you may need to spend some time and money in training them, the investment will pay off in terms of the commitment and dedication displayed by such women.
Points 3, 4 and 5 are applicable for both, men and women. We have implemented measures like these at Kern and have been really happy with the results.
Every mother wants to be around her children during their precious growing up years, at the same time, wants to contribute at work; these small measures can result in a win-win for both, women and their employers.