Let’s talk about flex baby… Flexible working that is.
What with coming back from maternity leave recently and juggling a career, flexible working has been at the forefront of my mind. It was compounded this last week by two of my friends handing in their notice from great career’s and well paid jobs.
Why did they do this?
In the main because of the long hours, long commutes and the general lack of flexibility shown by their employers in helping them find a balance. These intelligent, kick-ass Mama’s are now faced with an uncertain (but hopefully bright) future after many years of hard work and dedication to their roles. I’d hazard a guess that this is not a unique story.
That’s just not right is it?! In fact it makes me downright angry. Whilst I’m sure that these ladies will go on to bigger and better things (hello blogging!) they should not have been made to feel this way in the first place.
Flexible working is not possible or practical in some career avenues and I appreciate that. If you are a doctor for example, you’re going to have a hell of a time of diagnosing kidney stones via Skype. However, for myself and many of my Mum friends who are office based, flexible working should be an option. It’s necessary and hello?! it’s not as though parents at work are in the minority. We form a huge portion of the workforce and these issues are hardly rarities.
I’m not talking about the kind of flexible working where you flit in and out of the office on a whim. I am talking about the kind where if you need to leave early to do the school run, you can but you then log on and finish that presentation later that evening when the kids are (hopefully) in bed.
That kind of flexibility. That is what is so often missing and yet is so needed.
For me, a lack of flexibility in a job where it would be feasible is actually akin to discrimination. Employers are discriminating against the employees who have dependants by making it impossible to balance career and family.
Flexible working is actually more than just where you work from. It’s about give and take between employer and employee. Working from wherever you need to be and making the best use of technology to communicate with colleagues and customers, whenever you need to work.
So what is stopping employers from considering a more modern, flexible approach?
If it is a trust issue then this seems an outdated and demotivating stance to take. Can’t trust your employee to work flexibly? Then why hire them in the first place?
We have all the technology to work flexibly in the 21st century, just it would appear often not the foresight. This is a crying shame when it means losing key talented individuals who love their jobs but have dared to try to combine them with a family life. Heaven forbid!
Not only is it a shame for the employee who is forced against the wall but it’s a shame for narrow-minded businesses when you consider the potential benefits they could enjoy. Having employee’s who can work from anywhere, at any time and who aren’t tied to their desks has been proven to:
- Create a more efficient and productive organisation
- Create a more empowered and motivated workforce
- Encourage better customer service, especially within the international market
- Retain and attract key talent
- Reduce levels of sickness absence
- There is even the potential to save money in terms of office space and resources.
Some forward thinking, companies are already recognising that modern employers need to remove the old habits ingrained from the industrial era where you went to a single place of work between 9 and 5 every day to perform standardised tasks. The world has moved on, technology has improved and people need to work differently. We need to be allowed to be both employee’s and parent’s. It should be our right, not an nice to have added extra.
It’s about time that all companies followed suit and trusted their employees to take accountability for their own workload, time management and getting things done, whether that’s at 9am in the office or 9pm at home.
For me that is the essence of flexible working and I am very lucky to work for a company that is more forward thinking in this respect. It shouldn’t be pot luck though should it? It should be our right and our choice.
I want to hear from you – do you have a flexible employer? Do you have no flexibility with regards to work? Have you had to give up your career because you just can’t make it work? Would flexible working from home have made a difference?
Let me know in the comments box below and let’s get this subject out there.