Just over a year ago, I wrote an article on LinkedIn about flexible working (you can read it here), and this month I found myself back researching, this time from a local perspective. I recently got in touch with the creator of a new facebook page – another local mum. Frustrated by the lack of jobs available during school hours, she had set up the page to see if there are others in a similar situation – keen to get back into the workforce, but not so keen on going back to full-time hours at this point in time. Within a matter of a few days, the page already had almost 300 members, almost entirely Mums within our community!
The whole workplace flexibility issue came back to the forefront of my mind.
What you may not be aware of, is that I have been running my business for the past two and a half years on flexible hours…
I have two children at school in our local community, and one of my initial reasons for opening the flexible workspaces was to be able to create an income for myself which didn’t require commuting to the city, and wasn’t going to be awkward if either of my kids needed me for any reason. Being in another country at the other side of the world from our family means less opportunities to call on someone to help out when things don’t go to plan! I’m a ‘give everything to whatever I’m doing’ kind of a person, so the idea of letting my work down, or letting my kids down, was not something I wanted to do. So the reality is I drop the kids at school in the morning (and it’s two schools now – primary and high school), so I’m not at work until about 9am, and then I have to leave at about 2.30pm to start the school pickup process… And eat lunch at some point…
Imagine trying to start up a new business, and only being available during those hours to meet people, to talk about the services we could offer, and then to actually make it all happen. It wasn’t pretty that first year or so, I can tell you – but the more people who got involved, who understood the concept, who became workspace users – the more I was able to breathe out and relax a little. And the more people realised where I was in my chaotic life, the more they opened up about how crazy theirs was too, and we were able to start finding solutions for the crazy – helping each other out when things got difficult, and spreading the word about how it was ok to admit that we weren’t actually available to work 9-5 every day, we couldn’t attend those breakfast networking events, but that these things had no impact on how good we were at our jobs! In some cases, being able to let go of that guilt of trying to pretend we are as available as someone who is working full-time, with no commitments, actually makes us better, more focused – more productive and relaxed. How good does that sound?!
So – when I heard about Flexible Working Day, and Flexible Working Week – I re-ignited my passion to help others push the world towards having more options available – for everyone – this is not a ‘women thing‘, or a ‘Mum‘ thing – there are so many people looking for flexible options, for so many different reasons – sports people who want to pursue their activity, and need flexibility to attend events or competitions, people who are on the way towards retirement, but who want to stay active in their career for longer, and PARENTS – male and female –
statistics show that Dads DO want flexibility – a Workplace Gender Equality Agency report states:
79% of young fathers would prefer to choose their start and finish times but only 41% actually currently do.
79% of young fathers prefer to work a compressed work-week but only 24% actually do.
56% of young fathers would prefer to work part of their regular hours at home while only 13% actually do.
We opened up the flexible workspace for free on Wednesday 21st June, to celebrate and raise awareness of Flexible Working Day – we had some new faces come in a try out the coworking desks. I also shared my story of how I came to be working flexibly – you can read it here Suburban life – coworking & collaboration
I think there is some good traction happening in this area, and I look forward to seeing what I can do as my part in it all – no matter how small, all movement towards change is good. I’d love to hear others ideas or experiences, so feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org