Working Moms Benefit From Job Flexibility, Says Researcher

May 06, 2010 - News Release

What to give a working mom this Mother's Day? Flexibility, says a University of Guelph researcher.

Margo Hilbrecht of U of G's Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being has found that mothers who have control over the start and end of their workday feel healthier, do more physical activity, get more sleep, take more leisure time for themselves and watch less television.

“They are significantly more satisfied with their lives, jobs, work-life balance and use of time and health, also feel less time pressure,” said Hilbrecht, who is following up her PhD research with a post-doc on working mothers with school-aged children.

She will present her findings on mothers with flexible work hours May 28 and 29 at the Canadian Association for Work and Health Research Conference in Toronto.

Women with flexible hours also tend to work fewer hours, perhaps because they work through lunch or from home or may be able to commute at times when there is less traffic, said Hilbrecht.

She also found that flexible work hours benefit women significantly more than they benefit men because women spend relatively more time caring for children and doing housework.

“Mothers need to have more control over the hours they work because of the other duties they usually take on, which are often determined by the school day and children’s extracurricular activities. Because of the potential health benefits of more sleep, physical activity and enhanced well-being, flexible work hours should be more widely available to mothers with school-aged children.”

Hilbrecht found that, despite those benefits, younger mothers — who often have a heavier burden of child care activities — are least likely to have this option.

Her findings are based on an in-depth analysis of time use among parents of school-aged children compiled from the Statistics Canada General Social Survey.

She is also studying mothers who work non-standard hours such as weeknights and weekends. These women suffer higher stress levels, spend more time on household chores and do less physical activity than other working moms.

Mothers with non-standard hours assume similar child-care duties as nine-to-five mothers but have a harder time fitting these responsibilities into their schedule, she said.

“They are still trying to organize kids’ activities, get them to their after-school programs, book and drive them to appointments, and have family dinners together, but it’s extremely difficult to do all these things when their work hours aren’t synchronized with the rest of the family. They are struggling with the cultural emphasis that they need to be an involved mother, but it’s hard to be involved when you have the structural barrier of work hours that don’t match up with other family members’ schedules.”

Margo Hilbrecht
Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being
519-824-4120, Ext. 56763

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or

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