Working Mothers Working Harder, Longer, Survey Finds

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Some working mothers are feeling increased pressure to provide for their households and are therefore spending more time at work, according to a recent survey by the career site CareerBuilder. The economy is partially to blame.

Thirty percent of working moms whose companies have had layoffs in the past 12 months are working longer hours, and 14 percent have taken on second jobs in the last year to help make ends meet. Forty percent fear losing their jobs today more than they did one year ago.

These are some of the findings of CareerBuilder’s annual Mother’s Day survey, released May 5, 2009. The survey includes data from 496 women employed full-time with children under the age of 18.

Forty-three percent of respondents said they work more than 40 hours per week, while 16 percent reported bringing work home at least two days a week.

One-third of respondents (34 percent) said they are burned out.

And some said work was interfering with family time. Nearly one in five respondents (19 percent) said they spend two hours or less with their children each day. One in four (25 percent) said they had missed two or more significant events in their child’s life in the last year.

Many working mothers choose to work alternative schedules so they can spend more time with their kids. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they take advantage of flexible work arrangements at their organizations, with the vast majority reporting that work style adjustments have not adversely affected their career progress.

“Working moms want the gift of time this Mother’s Day,” Mary Delaney, president of CareerBuilder’s talent management and recruitment outsourcing division, Personified, and a mother of three, said in a statement. “Nearly one-third say that despite it being one of the toughest economies in the nation’s history, they would even consider taking a pay cut to spend more time with their kids.”

That number is down from a year ago, with the economy apparently causing a shift in priorities for some. In the 2008 CareerBuilder survey, 43 percent of respondents said they would take a pay cut to spend more time with their kids.

Those unwilling to follow through on that choice likely will seek out family-friendly employers, such as Ernst & Young, recognized in 2008 by Working Mother magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers for the 11th year in a row and among the Top 10 on the list for the third year.

Ernst & Young encourages its employees to take their vacations and to use flexible work hours in order to meet their personal and professional goals. In recent years, the firm has increased the amount of personal and vacation time available, including by granting four-day holiday weekends. The firm also provides a college coaching program, personal financial counseling, concierge and referral services, and a working moms network.

“Supporting working parents is part of our culture at Ernst & Young. All of our people are more engaged when they have the support they need to be successful both at work and at home,” noted Nancy Altobello, Ernst & Young’s Americas vice chair of people. “Our inclusive and flexible work environment is a competitive advantage in the marketplace and, as a result, our people are able to deliver the highest-quality service to our clients.”

Other firms address work/life balance issues for all employees, regardless of gender or parental status.

For example, the consultancy Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu is rolling out a new management approach called Mass Career Customization (MCC). MCC matches employees’ needs and evolving personal demands with the needs of the business. Its premise is that individual careers move along a lattice, with various slowdowns, accelerations and different paths taken along the way, rather than a vertical ladder. According to a March 6, 2009, statement, the “dialing up or down of a person’s professional contribution is treated as a norm, rather than the exception” under MCC. While not geared specifically to women, the program provides a business approach to enable all employees to balance personal and professional goals.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.