In "Working moms and the ‘flexibility’ fallacy that exists in PR", Lippe Taylor CEO Maureen Lippe makes the case for a decrease in workplace flexibility, calling for more moms to get back into the workplace.
Her piece argues that working remotely has a detrimental effect on the careers of working moms in particular. As working parents, we felt we had to speak up about the role that flexibility has played in our careers.
Let’s get something out of the way: Lippe isn’t wrong when she says flexibility has consequences. Working moms can’t have it all. That is the reality. You can’t be 100% at work and 100% at home. Another truth is that the more fulfilled we are and the more valued we feel, the more motivated we are to outperform. We would argue that we’re getting closer to cracking that proverbial nut of work-life balance. We are grateful to have role models and mentors along the way who have shown us that being an active and present parent does not have to come at the cost of your career aspirations.
It’s imperative to point out that we shouldn’t focus our conversation just on working moms. We’re proud to work alongside just as many fathers who engage fully in our conversations about flexibility. We also think it’s just as important to offer flexible work options to all employees, whether or not they have children. To leave them out of this conversation is a disservice.
At our agency, "flexibility with accountability" is a pillar of our culture and has been instrumental in balancing our own lives with our careers. It has allowed us to be engaged parents, as well as committed members of the agency and this industry. The critical word is "accountability"; our leaders and our teams place their trust in us. They trust we will rise to the occasion and deliver what is needed for the agency and our clients. Trust is a privilege. Working remotely is not a substitute for child care. It is not a supplement to vacation time. If abused, the policy is re-evaluated. Some of our best colleagues would no longer be working here if it wasn’t for this policy and the company prioritizing the needs of employees in today’s demanding world.
Leadership sets the tone for an agency’s culture. Our CEO, a working dad, fully embraces our policy. He knows people are happier and work harder for companies when they feel valued. As leaders ourselves, we encourage our teams to leverage flexibility, whether or not they are parents. We’re committed to helping our colleagues go through life phases without sacrificing career growth. A loyal workforce is contagious and it in turn establishes loyal clients.
Employers who are inflexible are asking parents to choose between personal obligations, families, and their careers. The result will rarely be their career -- with you. In a survey of the advertising industry, Momentum found more than 86% of respondents left a job or were actively pursuing other opportunities because they couldn’t find the right work-life balance. If we ask our employees to choose, they will go elsewhere. So why are we asking people to choose between their career and their personal lives? Why do they have to be a working professional or a parent? Why can’t they be both?
We, and many working parents, have learned to maximize productivity and engagement, whether or not we’re in the office. We have laptops, cell phones, and video conferences. We are more connected than ever. We rearrange schedules when warranted for business travel, team bonding events, client needs, and all-hands-on-deck situations. We log back on in the evenings to wrap up loose ends after putting our kids to bed.
This is what works for us, and many working parents we know. Different approaches will work for different people, parents or not. Flexibility gives employees the ability to choose what works for them, allowing them to work in a manner and schedule that best serves their needs, while ensuring that the needs of the client and the teams are top-of-mind.
The idea that we need to reduce the flexibility offered and mandate employees to be physically in the office at all times is antiquated thinking. Supporting the careers of our working parents is protecting the future of our workforce in this industry.
These are tomorrow’s leaders. If we effectively end their careers in the early stages, we are being short-sighted. If we continue to foster a culture of collaboration, no matter where we may be logging-in from, we will deliver great work to our clients and set the next generation of PR professionals up for success.
Contributing to this guest column are working parents at MSL, including Raghunath, VP of health and a board member of Viva Mama, Publicis Groupe’s business resource group for mothers; SVP of media relations Jenifer Slaw; SVP of consumer marketing Patricia Hallock; SVP of media relations Suzanne Lyons; SVP and creative director for consumer marketing Sacheen Cicero Shayeb; VP of media relations Alan Danzis; and corporate communications manager Paul Michael Marinello.