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Mum’s the word for business growth and staff retention

Published on Friday, 15 Mar 2013
Hans Leijten
Photo: Regus

A significant number of skilled, experienced and productive employees are leaving the workplace every year, and Hong Kong companies could be doing much more to entice them back.

Working mums already play a major role in the local economy. The fact remains, though, that employers are still pretty inflexible and rarely go out of their way to accommodate the differing needs of mothers who are trying to balance the demands of a regular job with taking care of a family.

“Globally, there is a strong case for greater inclusion of returning mothers in the workforce,” says Hans Leijten, East Asia vice-president for Regus, which specialises in flexible workplaces and meeting rooms.

“Research suggests that the benefits include increased GDP, sustained growth and bridging the skills gap. Factors like reduced staff turnover also present a compelling business case,” he adds.

In a January survey, Regus received feedback on the subject from more than 26,000 business people in over 90 countries. Hong Kong respondents, in particular, identified certain key steps employers should take to make it easier for professional women to resume their careers after a maternity-related break.

The recommendations included more flexible working hours, on-site or nearby crèche facilities, increased use of video-conferencing technology, and more options for job sharing.

“Earlier research revealed that 64 per cent of local business people felt that companies which choose not to hire returning mothers are missing out on the chance to harness this ‘resource’,” Leijten says.

Interestingly, he adds, respondents saw extra vacation days as one of the least effective measures for helping women return to the workplace.

This clearly suggests people are looking for a more fundamental change in working habits and employee attitudes, and not just measures to be applied on something of an ad hoc basis, Leijten says.

“According to our survey, greater flexibility in terms of working hours and location is also a key a part of the solution,” he adds.

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