A Mother's Day Wish

Last Updated May 8, 2009 10:24 PM EDT

What do I want for Mother's Day this year? I'd like a really big hug from my daughter and flowers or maybe even earrings from my husband. But more importantly, I want all working moms (and dads too) to legitimately get the chance to ask their bosses for a little flexibility to spend more time with their families.

I just got off the phone with an executive at a Fortune 500 company who chairs the firm's working parents group. At a recent seminar, a representative from HR reminded the employees of the many family-friendly policies available to them. But my contact told me many of the audience members don't feel comfortable taking advantage of them in this economy. The collective feeling is that now is the time to work more hours, not fewer, if they want to keep their jobs.

Unfortunately, that's how most of us feel these days. Leaving the office at 5:00 pm is sooo 2006. Instead, most of us are staying late and trying to get more face time with our bosses.

But I wonder if all of our extra effort and time is making us better employees? Ironically, we may not be more productive after all.

According to a recent study by Corporate Voices for Working Families, companies that provide their employees with flexible work options find their people are more productive, show increased loyalty, and are absent less often. And if you're the type that likes to see statistics, a recent article in Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Science, discusses how those productivity increases hit 10% in the pharmaceutical industry.

This information is hardly a revelation for anyone who has worked part-time. When I went back to work after having a baby, I was lucky enough to initially clock in just 20 hours a week. And you wouldn't believe how much I managed to accomplish during that shortened work week. I did it by putting my head down and working every moment I was at the office instead of adding my two cents to the office gossip and reality TV banter. My daily web surfing was also nonexistent. I had a babysitter I had to get home to; I couldn't afford to waste even a few minutes during the day. Here's the kicker, not only was I incredibly efficient and productive, but I also wasn't getting any benefits. That made me pretty cheap for management to keep around.

So here's my suggestion to human resources departments across the country. Let your employees have flexible work schedules and take time off to be with their kids. Not only will they likely get the same amount of work done, but you may even be able to pay them a little less and not have to lay off as many workers during this recession. And that's a Mother's Day gift we could all enjoy.

Mother's Day Poems image by Mothers&Daughters, CC 2.0