If, like me, you are parents of young children, I am sure you face the daily challenges of balancing parenthood/home life with work pressures. Businesses constantly want more, for less, and are fighting for precious time with our personal commitments. I am not wanting to pontificate about what is the wrong or right solution to this work-life conundrum – as always the right solution depends on individual circumstance and this is where flexible working is important. We all strive to ensure that our children have a good upbringing, with strong values, and are typically motivated to ensure their lives are at least comfortable with the fruits of our hard work being a roof over their heads, good food, occasional gifts and nice holidays.
Experienced parents would tend to agree that their offspring grow up so quickly – I recall as a young boy wishing to be an adult, to have the freedom that adulthood brings (a naive me having no comprehension of the stresses that adult life tends to bring) and my father instructing me to not ‘wish my life away, son’. Two years ago I took the decision to give up a well paid job, in a role that was fulfilling, with people that I loved working with in order to try and re-address this work-life balance. I didn’t want to be tied to a single 9-5 job (who ever works strictly 9-5 anymore?), didn’t want to have to ask permission to attend my children’s nativity, and didn’t want to look back in 10 years’ time and have a lack of involvement in my children’s progression into adulthood. I had to leave that job because they couldn’t offer me the working flexibility that I needed, and I decided to set up my own business.
The challenge in today’s talent marketplace is good people are hard to find. Keeping hold of good people is even harder. Of course people are motivated by money in order to ensure a comfortable life but is that the only motivator? Money is necessary, but it is not always the most important factor.
More progressive firms are now embracing flexible working (sometimes known as agile working) as they have seen that it can result in benefits to both employees and the business.
Employees reap the benefits of less commute time therefore are less stressed, and work more efficiently, making it easier to fit in life’s other commitments. Businesses benefit from costs savings from a reduction in the amount of expensive office space and are also able to attract talent that isn’t within reasonable commuting distance of an office. There are plenty of progressive businesses that function with a distributed workforce. Overall this makes for better staff retention – who doesn’t want to work for a company that cares for you?
The importance of flexibility for me was twofold: the ability to work from home and the opportunity to have more flexible hours. Going to a kids sports day or nativity are those moments you can never get back – so for me, being around and able to do those things, without impacting on valuable holiday entitlement, on the understanding that the hours will be made up, is critical.
All too often companies operate from a position of mistrust and an outdated notion that you work better if you are in the office all the time. I recall a story about a business leader that effectively banned working from home on a Friday. There was no reason or justification given so all I can do is speculate. Was it because studies have shown that Fridays are proven to be the most likely day of the week for you to be influenced by the lure of the pub? The same leader, on those rare days that the UK comes to a standstill because of a snow flurry, congratulated those workers who risked life and limb to venture in to work (and arrived late!) whilst at the same time berated those who took one look out of their windows and thought it would be safer and more productive if they worked at home for the day. There will always be people who do abuse any trust placed in them by their employer, but I personally feel these are in minority.
Businesses have to embrace different ways of working and accept that a key way to make employees feel valued is to trust and empower them to make the right decisions to their personal benefit and to the benefit of their employer. There is always a balance, certain people thrive in an office environment or do not have the means with which to lock themselves away at home, remote collaboration is often harder and it can be easier to build a team bond in a central office where everyone interacts.
If you are a working parent that has struggled with any of the issues outlined in this blog please feel free to comment and email email@example.com. I am really interested in hearing about your experiences. Plus, keep an eye out for our annual survey of Salary and benefits which will be launched in January 2018, where we will try to better understand employer flexibility.