Study: Employers Can Keep Mom Happy -- And on the Job

Filed under: Work Life, In The News

Employers Can Keep Mama Happy

Moms are more likely to keep their jobs if they have more control over their work schedules and have job security as well as the ability to make use of a variety of their job skills. Credit: Getty Images


Will she really return from maternity leave? Or will she take one look at that newborn and leave us forever?

Such thoughts plague employers.

However, a study out of Baylor University suggests they can increase their odds of luring good employees back to work and hanging on to them following maternity leaves.

Moms are more likely to keep their jobs if they have more control over their work schedules and have job security as well as the ability to make use of a variety of their job skills. Dads would probably like all that stuff, but researchers at Baylor were focusing on keeping moms happy in this particular study, which is published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

"Having a flexible schedule is an important element necessary to decrease working mom turnover because it can be used when work demands arise," the study's author, Dawn Carlson, says in a university press release.

"When confronted by one or more job demands, a flexible schedule provides working moms with alternatives for meeting those demands while caring for their newborns," adds Carlson, a professor of management and H. R. Gibson Chair of Organizational Development at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor.

"When working moms are better able to control their work environment and adapt, work-related stress is less likely to become a family issue."

Carlson notes that 71 percent of women with children under the age of 18 were working or looking for work; nearly 60 percent of women with young children were employed. Yet a lot of moms who return to work after childbirth subsequently leave the labor force. Carlson conducted this study to find out why.

The transition back to work is pivotal for a new mother, she says in the press release. The study offers insight into how a job can either contribute to or detract from the mother's decision to stay with her employer.

Carlson and her team surveyed 179 full-time working mothers in North Carolina with an average age of 31. The majority, 79 percent, was married. They worked an average of 39.7 hours per week and planned on returning to work 30 or more hours within four months after having their babies.

"Job security heightens motivation and energy, particularly for mothers who are sensitive to the security of their jobs after returning from maternity leave," Merideth Ferguson, an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at Baylor and a co-author of the study, says in the release.

"When working mothers believe that their tenure with an organization is not at risk, they will have more energy and other resources with which to fully engage and perform both at work and at home," she adds.

Mental and physical health play an important role in retaining working mothers and deserve attention, Carlson concludes.

"Although further research is needed, the results of this study indicate the impact of job characteristics on work-family relations that play a role in the mental and physical health and retention of working mothers as they make the pivotal transition back to work after childbirth," she says.

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