NYT opinion writer Jessica Grose penned an outstanding piece, “Remote Work is Here to Stay. Lean In, Employers.” this past weekend following the release of a new working paper — The Covid-19 Baby Bump – from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The paper suggested remote work was among the factors that resulted in the first major reversal in U.S. fertility rates in more than a decade because it reduced the opportunity costs (or “what’s given up”) of childbearing for some employees.
Jessica, who also writes the NYT’s On Parenting newsletter, noted some of my thoughts in her piece including one factor not mentioned in the NBER paper that I believe had an impact as well. “The partners of prospective mothers also, in many cases, had the same access to remote work and flexibility, which is further opportunity cost reduction on mothers because they don’t have to shoulder the burden alone.”
As Jessica wrote, “When you can work remotely or more flexibly, the frantic (working parent) dash disappears” and “a million other little pressures (are) relieved.” She cited Future Forum’s latest Pulse Survey which that found 83% of working moms now want location flexibility” and half of the working dads asked “want to work remotely 3 to 5 days a week.”
Yet, the demands to return to office in the name of face time persist. My response, “The complaints that remote work destroys company culture and prevents mentorship directly relate to the fact that the pandemic shift to remote work was crisis-driven and not a thoughtful, intentional implementation.
“A well-executed flexible work strategy addresses upfront, ‘what do we need to do to build culture and mentor talent?’ then determines ‘how, when and where do we do that best based on the realities of our jobs and lives?’ That’s not left to chance.”
It becomes part of a culture where flexibility is “the way we operate.” This is the next evolution of work that all organizations need undertake to attract and retain talent at every age and stage of life, including parents. Define your what. Your why. Your purpose.
As I wrote in a piece for Medium two years ago, “Operating shifts that keep parents in the workforce improve work life for all. The same planning, coordination and support to help parents can help all employees find a better fit between their jobs and the other parts of their lives in the near term, while informing the way work looks long term.”
Until next time, keep reimagining work… and life.