Balancing work and family obligations can be tough, particularly in the current economic climate.

High unemployment, reduced wages and a struggling educational system have parents scrambling to juggle tough schedules while making ends meet. As a result, working parents and employers are increasingly turning to flexible work arrangements. These arrangements typically include telecommuting, part-time jobs and flexible work schedules that make it easier for employees to manage both work and personal needs.     

A recent survey from FlexJobs found that 81% of working parents say they can balance being a great employee and great parent, but some of the respondents cited some type of flexible work arrangement was critical to achieving this balance. Additionally, 89% of respondents indicted flexibility as the most important factor in seeking their next job, with competitive pay being the second most important at only 50%.

The Advantage for Parents  

A report published in 2012 by Pearson and written by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the U.S. 17th in the world in education. Given this dismal ranking, there is no doubt a growing need for parents to be more involved with their children’s lives. The vast majority (96%) of parents who took the FlexJobs survey indicated that having traditional full-time employment conflicts to some degree with their parental responsibilities. Good and affordable alternatives for child care when parents have to work aren’t easy to find. More parental involvement in their children’s education and development is going to require flexible and creative work arrangements that benefit all parties involved. 

The Advantage for Employers

The survey found 81% of parents have had to miss work for childcare and 54% have called-in sick to attend an event for their child. Flexible work arrangements can mitigate these absences and even enhance productivity and worker availability. The survey also found that 67% of respondents indicated they would actually be more productive if they had a flexible schedule and 84% reported they would miss fewer days due to sickness with a less-restrained schedule. The math is simple, more flexibility means higher quality engagement.

Parents aren’t just raising children, they are raising the future workforce of this country. The data in this survey point to the fact that we need to do more to allow parents to be more involved in their children’s lives. Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, notes that  “89% of the respondents said if they had a flexible job it would increase the time they spend volunteering in their children’s school or organized activities.” Given the challenges teachers and students are facing today this opportunity for increased involvement would likely be welcomed by most schools and certainly be a benefit to future employers. 

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and the new on-line course The YOU Plan for Career Change on Udemy. Dr. Woody is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership. Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook.