Could flexible working help you get a better work/life balance? As it’s National Work and Family Life month, there's no better time to ask why more of us aren’t able to introduce this into our working lives.
A recent survey showed that since the government introduced laws that give everyone the right to ask for flexible working, there’s been little change in the number of people actually doing so: ‘In 2010, 44.1% of all employees worked flexibly, and by 2015 the figure was 44.3%’.
"Many employers may remain sceptical about the benefits of flexible working… Barriers such as negative line manager attitudes and a cultural presumption against flexible working may dissuade employees from submitting an application”, says Joanna Wilson pulled the results together.
Between June and August, I applied for more than 50 jobs… all but a handful have been rejected, or worse, ignored altogether.
As a Mum of one, to Harry who’s two, this is what I've committed to so I can have the right work/life balance for me and my family. I want to be able to spend time with my son and flexible working helps me do that.
Between June and August, I applied for more than 50 jobs - mainly through sites like Indeed and almost always via recruitment agencies. Each time, I told them about my goal of flexible working or part time hours… All but a handful have been rejected, or worse, ignored altogether.
The agency will give me a call and ask about my work situation, I’ll explain what I’m doing and run through my employment history. Then they’ll ask for salary expectations and if I drive… and eventually the fact that it is full time.
I’ve taken to raising it at the very beginning of the phone call, meaning them can say ‘sorry, I don’t have any roles with flexible working hours at the moment’ much earlier on – and saving us both a lot of time.
The worry is that employers see this as me not wanting to commit to them, that somehow this means I’m lazy because I don’t want to ‘work’ 40 hours a week, or even just that they don’t think it’ll work for their business.
A recent YouGov survey showed employers are ‘concerned about the security and management implications… despite the fact that staff now have the legal right to request flexible working arrangements’.
When are companies going to catch up with the rest of us and start opening up to flexible working hours that don’t match the Monday – Friday, 9 – 5 norm?
Why are parents still having to choose between their career and their home life? Being at their desk, or their child’s play? Answering some emails, or being able to pick their little one up from school? Having a full-time job, or getting one extra day a week to spend with their family?
Why does every task on a person’s to-do list need to be done in the office at certain times of the day? Why is there a lack of trust that they can do this at home, in the evening, once they’ve had an hour or two chatting with their kids around the dinner table?
Because I am a Social Media Manager, I can be working at any time of the day (or night), so for me the flexible working hours are a perfect fit. For almost a year and a half, I've been able to do my work around my family, whilst (mostly) still hitting my deadlines.
On the four days a week that Harry’s at nursery, I get as much done as I can, but come pick-up time (which I can be whatever time I like, depending on what work I have on) I can focus entirely on him and have some much needed, much loved Harry and Mummy time.
If I feel a slump in the afternoon, which I always seem to do, I can take a break and recharge. I watch some Netflix or even have a nap – then later that evening, when he’s down in bed, I settle onto my sofa and do another of hour or two while I’m feeling more motivated again.
Freelancing means I’m able to work at the times I know I’m more productive, and the only person who needs to give me permission for that – is me!
Interestingly, it seems more people are coming around to this way of thinking: according to a HSBC survey, 89% of employees in the UK believe flexible working is key to improving productivity. They even have stats that prove this to be the case!
In my opinion, everyone should have the chance to make the most of that.
In my old job, I tried to change my working hours from 9 – 5 to 10 – 6. Only a small adjustment, but it’d mean I avoided the cramped morning trains and could work later when the office was quieter.
The request was immediately turned down, that wasn’t how things were done in the team and it wouldn’t be viewed very well by others. I often had the same reaction when I asked to work-from-home, there just was a fear that this would affect productivity.
It is my firm belief that every single one of us should have access to flexible working conditions. Doing has changed my life considerably, but I don’t think people should have to opt for a risky freelance lifestyle just top achieve that - Companies should offer it for permanent, full time roles too.
And that is why I’ve relaunched my blog today, on National Flex Day. I’m looking forward to sharing the things I’ve learnt about this completely different way of working – and I hope that some people reading it might be inspired to try it, or even offer it more to the people who work for them.
If you’ve enjoyed this read and want to join my mission to get everyone, parents or otherwise, the perfect work/life balance they deserve, please come and join me on Twitter or Facebook.
My name's Amy and I'm a Social Media Consultant with a two-year-old son, Harry.