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Does Workplace Flexibility Actually Make You a More Attentive Parent?

Mother is working with laptop while daughter (6-11 months) is sitting in background
Photograph by Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Many parents face the common catch-22: If they work, they don't get to see their kids as often. And if they stay at home to take care of the kids, they can't afford to take care of their family. But with the advent of flexible work schedules and the ability to work from home, it was seen as a great compromise so that parents could see their children more instead of being tethered to the office until 5 p.m. (or later).

But this may all be an illusion, according to research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. With the flexible work hours has come what the authors of the study have called a Results Only Work Environment, or ROWE.

It's exactly how it sounds—as long as the employees complete their assignments and get the results required, there is no time to be logged. And this is all great, except that nothing truly changes in home life. The only real change (for the majority of parents) is the parent's perception of increased control of time working and time spent with their kids, according to the study.

"ROWE helped mothers feel that they were spending enough time with their children, even though it didn't change the actual amount of time for most parents," said Rachelle Hill from the University of Minnesota, according to Eurekalert. However, there was one additional chunk of time that mothers in the study gained as a result of the flex work conditions: "Mothers who participated in ROWE and ate fewer than three meals with their children per week were able to eat one additional family meal with their children compared to mothers in traditional departments," said Hill.

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