Stay-at-home moms and dads could be the greatest enhancement to the workforce

January 18, 2019 | Virtual Agents | Blog


child hugging mother

Don’t write off baby whisperers when it comes to business.

“Stay at home parent” isn’t likely to be the first entry on a hiring manager’s list of sources of talent. Instead, this group is most likely listed as “resumes to chuck.”

The truth is, sadly, companies are less likely to even interview, let alone hire, people who’ve been a stay at home parent. A 2018 study from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill assistant professor Kate Weisshaar found a bias against job applicants who temporarily stayed home with their children. Companies preferred “laid-off applicants who have been out of work for the same amount of time,” Weisshaar said.

“Put simply, stay-at-home parents were about half as likely to get a callback as unemployed parents and only one-third as likely as employed parents,” she said.

Overlooking stay at home moms and dads as less-than-competitive candidates is extremely unfortunate because those who have the qualifications and experience often prove to be highly dedicated top-performers.

Stay at home parents are high performers

There are handfuls of people who go out of their way to hire stay-at-home moms and dads. These leaders rave about the performance of people who identify as stay at home moms and dads.

“Work-from-home-moms are incredible – even if your target customers aren’t mothers. They know how to maximize their time, because they are moms, and know what a resource time is,” said Deeanne Akerson, who—as a stay-at-home mother of two small children—launched Kindred Bravely, a line of maternity and breastfeeding apparel. Akerson was featured in an article by Forbes in which she talked about the benefits she’s experienced in hiring people who happen to be stay-at-home parents.

Anna Brockway also extolls the benefits of working with stay-at-home moms. She held the role of Vice President of Levi-Strauss before becoming a stay-at-home mother herself. She now runs furniture consignment website Chairish and last year was featured in an article by Bustle.

Brockway wants to refute misconceptions that hamper the ability of stay-at-home mothers to find good remote or telecommuting work.

“There is this idea that stay-at-home moms who take on remote/freelance employment are somehow too preoccupied with motherhood to do a good job. My experience with working mothers has been the complete opposite! As an employer, I love hiring stay-at-home moms because you get 120 percent of their time and effort.”

The problem is simply perception, she says. “I think it is important that people recognize that becoming a stay-at-home mother doesn’t inhibit a woman’s ability to be a high-performing employee.”

Stay at home parents tend to be highly educated

More than 11 million U.S. parents (roughly 18 percent) were not working outside the home in 2016, according to an analysis by Pew Research Center.

Twenty-nine percent of stay at home moms have a college degree and 25 percent of stay at home dads have one as well, according to Pew.

A 2017 article by the New York Post explored the issue. It cited that Pew finds more than 10 million women are at home with their children. “If 5 million wanted to work 20 hours per week, that’s 5 billion annual hours of possibility, with much of that time currently spent on housework, television or online activities that women would jettison for the right opportunities,” wrote author Laura Vanderkam.

How can organizations tap into this talent? Start with these 3 ideas:

The short and easy story: Let stay-at-home parents stay at home and work around their lives.

Companies that structure some work into the form of part-time, virtual jobs would find a vastly expanded applicant pool. Vanderkam quoted Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs: “You can hire in geographic areas where it might be a lower cost of living. You can tap a workforce that your competitors are generally ignoring. You’ll get employees who are grateful for work, no small thing in terms of retention and engagement.”

1. Offer work schedules around kid commitments.

The Post article quoted the founder of Path Forward, which helps stay-at-home parents wanting to return to the workforce find opportunities. “There is a huge untapped capacity to be found in the many women who would happily work the 20 to 30 hours a week that their kids are in school,” Tami Forman, who runs Path Forward.

The failure to seek stay-at-home parents as workers is a mistake, according to mom and business owner Emily Crocker. “These are mothers who can balance their time like any other adult,” Crocker wrote in a column for Fortune. “Instead of fitting work between office gossip, coffee runs and Facebook updates, these women fit it in between naps, doctor appointments, school pickups and childcare relief.”

One might argue that mothers and fathers are even better at fully understanding their own bandwidth vs. over-committing to unattainable workloads. Bart Turczynski, lead career advisor and stay-at-home-parent specialist at further asks employers to “understand that stay at home moms and dads have had time to reflect on their next move meaning you can guarantee their commitment to next the challenge,” and pleads that “a new family is the best inspiration for success.”

There’s no good reason not to engage stay-at-home parents in work that fits their needs. For starters, most are at an age where they have a good amount of energy and interest in providing value and being contributors.

2. Build tracks that ramp up and ease back into the workplace.

Secondly, with apps and connection speeds delivering connectivity in so many ways, it makes sense that organizations design work to align with as many talented people as possible.

Which is why Path Forward and other organizations are creating “returnships” for people who’ve taken time off to be a caregiver and are ready to return to work. Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, has stepped up and committed in a pilot project to place as many as 30 returnships.

The first cohort, according to an article in Fortune, will be brought into Walmart Labs, the company’s tech division in San Bruno and Sunnyvale, with an eye toward rolling the program out at a larger scale across Walmart.

By collaborating with Path Forward, Walmart Labs wants to tap into an “overlooked talent pool,” Bobbie Grafeld, vice president of people for Walmart Labs.

“[These] people have strong skills sets and made a personal choice to exit the workforce,” she says. “How can we—as the world’s largest employer—help them ease back into it?”

Tech is just one of many sectors with work conducive to being done in bursts of productivity all around the clock by stay-at-home moms and dads.

3. Take a page out of the gig economy handbook.

Lots has been written about the plethora of ways people are generating income via apps like WeGoLook, Grubhub, TaskRabbit, Uber and Lyft. Somewhat lesser known gigs, however, are more attuned with the needs of stay-at-home parents. Tutoring, teaching English and other languages, web design, writing, corporate communications, finance, law and customer service are just a short list of areas.

Customer service operations in particular are in need of call agents who are smart, helpful, problem-solvers who want an important role in delivering customer experience that is top-notch.

eBay, for example, recently launched eBay@Home, a formal work from home program to create 300 remote agent positions across the country. Airlines and others in the travel industry also hire lots of call agents who work from home.

Liveops serves its clients in the travel industry and other sectors such as retail, insurance, healthcare, etc. by sourcing independent agents who define their own schedules and choose the products, services and companies they support.

“Stay-at-home moms and dads really enjoy working as an independent call agent with Liveops because our structure allows for a lot of flex,” said Aimee Matolka, Director of Client Results at Liveops.

Roughly 38 percent of Liveops agents are work-at-home parents who also happen to be among the company’s highest performers.

“Based on my years of experience working with stay-at-home parents, I value them as team members and don’t hesitate to include them in my top tier of candidates,” Matolka said.

“The Liveops model is what attracts stay-at-home moms/dads and other people who need work that doesn’t force you into the mold of Monday through Friday, 8 to 5,” she said.

Liveops allows people to work from home according to half-hour increments they set themselves. Work is available nearly around-the-clock for clients in everything from healthcare to roadside assistance and retail.

“Not only do we as an organization embrace people and whatever their life circumstance is but we take heart knowing we’re providing work for people who might not otherwise have opportunities that fit with their schedules and/or life situations,” Matolka said.

Learn more about becoming an agent with Liveops.

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Shelly Strom

Shelly Strom is a writer for Liveops. With a background in business journalism and corporate communications, she specializes in researching the call center industry to uncover key trends, news and analysis.

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