What Do Working Parents Want? Flexible Work Options

Today, dual-income families account for 46 percent of two-parent households in the U.S., according to Pew Research Center. In single-parent households, 76 percent of single mothers work and 85.1 percent of single fathers work.

And for most working parents, striking a health work/life balance is difficult, no matter their household arrangements. Perhaps that explains why so many working-parent respondents to a recent FlexJobs survey said work/life balance (81 percent) and flexible schedules (76 percent) were more important than salary (72 percent) when choosing jobs.

While many parents who responded to the survey (66 percent) said they work in part because they want to, 78 percent of respondents also said they worked because they had to in order to afford basic necessities. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they were working to pay for other childcare-related costs, and another 61 percent said they were saving for their kids' education.

What does all this mean for employers? It means if you want to do your parent employees a solid – and also help them be more engaged, loyal, and productive at work – then you need to start offering flexible work options.

"One of the best ways [to support working parent employees] is to offer a variety of flexible work options," says Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs. "Depending on the industry and each role within the company, options that might be appropriate include: remote or telecommuting options, flexible or alternative schedules, part-time professional roles, freelance contracts, job sharing, and others."

The survey itself found that the most in-demand flexibility options among working parents were:

100 percent telecommuting (83 percent)

Flexible schedule (72 percent)

Partial telecommuting (49 percent)

Part-time schedule (46 percent)

Alternative schedule (45 percent)

Freelance (37 percent)

As mentioned above, offering flexibility options isn't just a nice thing to do; it also brings a serious return on investment for employers. Eighty-six percent of working parents said more flexibility would allow them to be less stressed, and 79 percent said it would make them healthier – two things tied to improved employee performance.

Furthermore, 82 percent of working parents said they'd be more loyal to an employer that gave them flexible work options, and 77 percent said flexible work arrangements would be more conducive to developing "meaningful relationships" with their coworkers.

Just Be Careful Not to Send the Wrong Message to Employees Who Aren't Parents

When promoting workplace flexibility options to parent employees, employers need to be careful about how they present flexibility to their staffs. If non-parent employees perceive that flexibility is offered to working parents in particular, they may feel undervalued and neglected. The company may even end up entangling itself a sticky legal situation.

"Flexible work options are definitely not just for working parents," Reynolds says. "Flexible work programs should be available for all workers, and when companies write or talk about them, they need to make sure to use inclusive language that doesn't single out any one group of people as the group benefitting from these arrangements."

As it turns out, non-parents also want flexible work arrangements. FlexJobs surveyed these folks as well and found that "flexible work options benefit all employees," Reynolds explains.

Ultimately, Reynolds says, flexible work isn't a matter of parents vs. non-parents; it's "a quality of life issue." Forty-five percent of all employees say flexibility would have "a huge improvement" on their quality of life, and 52 percent say it would have "a positive impact."

"If companies can focus on that – improving the lives of all their workers – they'll avoid tricky situations that pit working parent professionals against the rest of the workforce," Reynolds says.