Remote work is a win for mothers — and society at large

The rise of flexible work arrangements has enabled more women to juggle their careers with motherhood, experts say, fostering stronger families.
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Becca Poccia Hays says flexible work arrangements saved her career. 

When her son was born in 2022, she and her husband, a school teacher, found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. “We did not have any childcare options other than ourselves” during the school year, she says. 

Thankfully, she says, until she was able to secure a spot for their son in a local daycare, her boss allowed her to work during the pockets of time in which the baby slept. “I don’t know what we would have done otherwise,” says Hays, who lives in Rochester, New York.

Today, Hays works part-time for a home health care agency, working some days in the office and others remotely from home. That arrangement enabled her to stay in the workforce after the birth of her son, who is now 2 years old.

As the popular hand-wringing continues over whether women can truly “have it all,” flexible work models, including remote and hybrid work options, have allowed many working mothers to be more present for their children and to find a more effective work-life balance.

In 2022, 41% of female employees worked from home at least part of the time. Experts say such arrangements enable more women to juggle their careers with motherhood – and can, in turn, serve as a catalyst for stronger families and healthier societies.

Flexible work models have allowed many working mothers to be more present for their children and to find a more effective work-life balance.

“Working from home helps women balance those responsibilities while still being able to perform their job at the same level,” Odette Hutchings, chief operating officer for the Women in Capital Markets network, told CBC News. “We’re really at this golden opportunity to make workplaces more inclusive, more flexible and more welcoming to all kinds of people.”

At the peak of the COVID pandemic in 2020, many people were forced to shift to work-from-home models due to social distancing measures and mandated lockdowns. Though these restrictions have now been lifted and the pandemic has waned, hybrid and even fully remote work models still exist. 

And these models have allowed many mothers to enter or stay in the workforce. A 2023 analysis by Brookings Institute found that workforce participation for women between the ages of 25 and 54 is at an all-time high in the U.S., driven primarily by women with children under 5 years old who are working from home.

Sandhya Jain-Patel, a Brooklyn-based consultant who works with major companies on their diversity and inclusion strategies and organizational culture, says such work arrangements go a long way to making work accessible for employees with children.

“Having that ability to work remotely, especially as a parent, is incredibly important because the time spent on commuting is an additional cost for caregivers,” notes Jain-Patel. “If you’re spending an hour or two or more a day commuting, [that is a] thievery of your family and your time.”

Beyond reduced commuting time — which has real financial and environmental benefits — parents can use remote and hybrid work to customize their hours, work from home while nursing infants or caring for sick children, and reduce their reliance on expensive childcare. 

By increasing the level of autonomy that workers have with their time and schedules, remote work provides “a level of equity across racial and ethnic groups as well as other identity groups,” says Jain-Patel. “It really does decrease the power that senior level managers have over teams” to micromanage their time, she notes.

Not only can remote work increase worker satisfaction, it can also improve employees’ safety and wellbeing. One poll of about 20,000 employed Americans by 19th News found that remote workers were less than half as likely to experience sexual assault or harrassment in the past three years.

And the benefits for workers’ families, too, cannot be overstated.

The mother of a 12- and 8-year-old herself, Jain-Patel loves being able to take a break in the middle of her workday to pick up her kids from school. Doing so helps her foster an “emotional connection” with them, which is only possible because she works both remotely and in-person.

Research has shown that mother-child quality time can be positively associated with child development, including reading scores — suggesting flexible work arrangements can be a catalyst for healthier societies.

In 2023, researchers asked 3,000 women aged 18 to 44 to consider whether they had the family life they had dreamed of or whether they felt they were on their way to achieving this dream. Women who worked remotely were more likely than those who worked in-person to report the positive outcome.

Now, four years into the pandemic, many working mothers are unwilling to go back to the way things were.

About 96% of women working hybrid jobs said these arrangements enable a healthier lifestyle, noting that it allows more time for rest, healthcare appointments, better eating habits and exercise.

In one 2023 survey of more than 400 women who are pregnant or have young children, mothers indicated that flexible work hours, remote work arrangements and paid parental leave were their top three desired employment benefits. Almost half of these women said they would even choose remote work over a $1,000 increase in annual pay. 

A majority of women say that hybrid work is now a “non-negotiable” for them, according to a separate 2023 survey of more than 1,000 women who work full-time in hybrid roles. About 72% of women said they would look for a new job if their employer revoked the hybrid work allowance.

About 53% of respondents who identified as parents or caregivers surveyed said they see flexible work as a “caregiving benefit,” with a strong majority agreeing it helped them save money on caregiving expenses and allowed them to spend more time with family.

And a whopping 96% of women surveyed said they believe that hybrid work arrangements enable a healthier lifestyle, with most saying it allows more time for rest, healthcare appointments, better eating habits and exercise.

It also allows for increased time on hobbies, personal activities — and civic engagement. Take Kathryn Tuck, who has a 6-year-old and a 2-year old and has been working for a Michigan-based guide dog training organization since 2011.

By working remotely some days, Tuck has found she has more free time — time she says she uses to become “more involved” in her community. Tuck now sits on her local library board and works for some early literacy organizations. As some of these meetings occur during the day, her flexible schedule allows her to stay involved in these activities while working as well.

These flexible arrangements, Tuck says, make her life “work.”

Fatima Minhas is a staff writer for Analyst News.