Which term do you prefer to use?
Part-time has been around forever and is still used but may suggest “fixed hours” and not working at “full-time” capacity? It has been suggested on occasion that part-time is rather career-limiting and demonstrates less commitment. Rather unfair don’t you think.
On the other hand, flexible working is being more recently used and actually presents a whole new theme to a working pattern.
Yes, it can be seen as a new buzz -word in the world of recruiting, but it does actually present many advantages to the employee and of course an organisation.
Admittedly, flexible working does focus firstly on the female population with young children. This is the most affiliated subject to the term, flexible working. But again it can offer so much more.
Flexible working is used a lot to encourage the focus of re-engagement in employment where expectations have been that women won’t necessarily work after having children. The promotion of this work pattern can demonstrate so many advantages for business and our economy.
The term flexible working is used to basically describe a working pattern that is adapted to suit the needs of an employer. The most common types of flexible working does include part-time so the term is not completely forgotten about, as it is the working pattern in which we can work has expanded. More interesting terms of flexible working used are homeworking, compressed hours and staggered hours.
Some organisations are making great strides in embracing flexible working and pushing ahead as they value the positive outcomes. More can be done within companies to breakdown the barriers within the environment, to raise awareness and eliminate fear.
Some initial steps businesses need to promote the benefits are;
- Recognition of the need for an attitude and culture change within their environment.
- Flexible working isn’t just for women with children but all employees
- Flexible working can actually aid thinking about decisions to change work patterns, including the dynamics and effectiveness of current jobs being worked in.
These are just a few examples and steps to makes the changes and require a huge amount of commitment, communication and time to implement and manage.
Our social and economic dynamics are encouraging changes, which may take some time. It is current and very real and we can only continue to move in the right direction.
How can you possibly have a career and a personal life and not feel guilty that someone is getting short changed? Is it a no win situation which just can't be resolved? Sorry for the cliche, but it's actually a win-win situation.
First, let's take a look at your personal life. You have a lot of commitments, right? But isn't this what makes you feel connected to this earth? Commitments are a good thing - you may have a commitment to a sports team, a local school, a charity or a family matter. These commitments take you away from work, both mentally and physically. (Again, this is also a good thing which I'll come back to later). Your instinct is that your priorities are in the right place, but you still feel guilty leaving clients or colleagues with unfinished business.
Now let's take a look at your professional life. You are no doubt enjoying the challenge and collaboration of working with other adults. Knowing you, I bet you're really throwing yourself into the new job, the new role, or project. But I hear you. You're telling me that despite this job satisfaction you still do experience that tinge (or on a bad day, that pang) of guilt that you should be home having a glass of wine with your partner or reading that bedtime story with your kids.
Well, if it's any consolation we've all been there . The point is you're not alone and it's not personal - it's part of the human predicament. It's part of what defines us and you've got to stop beating yourself up about it. It's not your fault, so there's absolutely no reason why you should feel guilty!
Kate Redding, the working mom played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the film I don't know how she does it, demonstrates beautifully that so much of the guilt we experience is self-imposed. We set unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve - whether that be at home or at work. Kate seems to feel guilty about everything and as a result she seems almost scatter-brained and unfocused in almost every situation. Her guilt seems to be driving her to be uber human. (She really stoops low when she dresses up a store-bought cake as homemade for the school bake sale. She doesn't want her kids to feel like she's contributing less than the other mothers. Oh, please!). In a way we set ourselves up for feeling a sense of failure, a sense of guilt, because we can't meet a pie in the sky expectation.
Ok, so although you buy into my logic, you're still not over it.
Here's the real key to getting to grips with the guilt trip. What you have to realize is that it's because of your personal life (rather than in spite of!) that you're a better professional, a better business person. People like to deal with other people. The unique approach, values and integrity you bring to the work environment are your greatest contributions. Your uniqueness comes from your personal life, your upbringing and your personal experiences. Also having a personal life pulls you away from work - it saves you from burn-out (I saw plenty of this in my corporate life!). It allows you to break away and recharge your battery, which of course makes you more productive in the long run. Ever notice how much easier something feels once you've had that mental break?
Fine, I get all that, but I still feel guilty about not spending enough time with my partner. I feel guilty about leaving the kids. Did you ever think about how your professional life makes you an interesting person - how it broadens your perspective? Have you ever thought about how your professional life enables you to support your partner's career (you realize just how tough it is out there in the real world!). So many skills and qualities that you apply in your personal life have actually been developed in your work life. You've got it - your professional life makes you a better person - you as a partner, daughter, friend or mother. You can help your relatives and close friends get out of those tricky situations because you solve problems at work all day long!
Bottom line? Although you want perfection, just focusing on that one thing doesn't get you there either. Once you accept that you can't possibly be everywhere and do everything, and also accept that it's the varied dimensions in your life that might it worth living, you're well on the road to recovery. No more guilt. Time to enjoy life's variety!
Can your business afford it - or can it afford not to?
It is relatively modern concept that we travel to work, spending two hours (or more) each day in our
cars or on public transport. This way of working really took off in the industrial age when many
industries moved from being home-based services or home-produced goods to large factories or
offices located in city centres. Since the post-war period, many more women have joined the
workforce and our transport systems (as we all experience) are struggling under the daily pressure of
As our cities have grown and housing costs have increased (especially in London) it is often not
possible to work close to home, particularly when just travelling from more affordable areas to the
city centre takes at least an hour. In London alone, millions of commuters join the daily rat race
every morning. Even the government wants businesses to consider offering employees the
opportunity to work from home to ease the burden on the deteriorating transport systems.
For those of us who work the daily nine to five (or more likely nine to seven!) and experience the
joys of being stuck in someone’s sweaty armpit on the tube, and then getting home too late to see
the children before bedtime, or too tired to cook a proper meal or visit the gym/friends/etc., how
often do we wonder why we do it? It might seem like there is little choice if we want to be
economically active and pursue our hard-won careers. This is because “flexible working” is often a
dirty word to business-owners.
So why, when we have technologies to support alternative ways of working, do many employers still
feel reluctant to implement, and indeed actually fear the concept of flexible working, worrying that
it will mean anarchy and chaos in the workplace, loss of control over employees, failure to service
clients’ needs or worse still, loss of productivity and profits.
Many employers don’t step back and look at the bigger picture. There are many different options
that employers can consider implementing from all-inclusive flexible working policies to limited
flexible working opportunities to ad hoc arrangements. Not forgetting of course their minimum
legal obligations to consider requests for flexible working, allow time off to care for dependants,
undertake training etc. - all businesses should get legal advice about these.
By offering choices to employees as to how they manage their time, attendance at the office, and
workload, an employer can:
- instil a level of trust and confidence in their staff
- make them feel valued and appreciated
- get the best out of people
- improve absenteeism
- increase productivity
- make better use of resources (including office space)
- reduce their carbon footprint
- and overall create a happy workforce.
A happy workforce is consequently:
- more loyal to their employer (improving staff retention rates)
- more motivated (improving productivity rates)
- more committed to their job (working longer hours)
- more hard-working (reduced absenteeism)
- more likely to represent the business positively to clients/ customers/the outside world
It follows that a workforce that spends fewer of their waking hours commuting (in an armpit or
otherwise) is one that is more likely to:
- be happier (see above)
- be healthier (as we all know, being run-down makes people susceptible to illness, not to
mention the transmission of cold and flu viruses on public transport)
- have a better work/life balance (with better family relationships and/or social life)
As a result of having a happier workforce, your business reputation improves, your standing
increases amongst your clients/customers and industry/competitors, and overall your profits
These conclusions might seem overly simplistic, but there are workforce studies that support the
benefits outlined above. Indeed, Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) report that 50% of
employees say that given the chance, they would like to work 1-2 days week at home.
How green are you?
Another factor to consider is your business’s green credentials. Reducing travel and expenditure on
office premises reduces carbon emissions, and this is good for the environment and a useful
marketing tool for environmentally-conscious clients. AWA report that “Cost- and carbon-reduction
are currently significant drivers for many organisations, and the smartest ones are already planning
an employee-to-desk ratio of 15:10, cutting excessive, expensive office space by as much as 40 per
cent. The future of the office is that it will no longer exist in its current form.”
What if I am not ready?
Whilst AWA envisage a large-scale cultural change in working practices in the future, involving allinclusive
flexible working practices that allow employees wide-ranging opportunities to work from
home, hot-desk in other offices or business “hubs”, change or reduce their working hours, etc.,
many employers just don’t feel ready to go the whole hog and adopt such generous flexible working
practices, at least not for the time being. They are afraid of the cost, the impact of change on the
workforce, their ability to provide a seamless service. Not all job roles are suited to working flexibly,
or at least only to a limited extent. In fact, it is this limited extent which employers often don’t think
What if you offer some limited flexibility to employees?
- Just enough for your business to benefit to some extent from the advantages described
- Just enough so that it does not impose a financial burden on your business?
- Just enough to suit your particular business and the service you provide to customers?
- Just enough to ensure you comply with the law?
It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”, and you should get some legal or HR advice about what sort of
limitations you could impose, and when a refusal to agree to flexible working could be
discriminatory or otherwise unlawful.
What if you offer just “ad hoc” home-working?
“Ad hoc” home-working differs from permanent flexible working in that instead of an arrangement
whereby an employee works one day a week from home as a regular pattern, employees can
arrange to work from home on an “as and when” basis but are otherwise based in the office. This
can just be adopted on its own, or be a first step for putting more flexible arrangements in place in
the future. It can also be implemented alongside a wider flexible working policy which applies to
Let’s look at a typical example - an employee needs to wait in at home for the boiler to be repaired.
With an “ad hoc” flexible working practice, they have two options.
Option 1 – Take annual leave
o Your business loses the benefit of their work for half a day.
o Since it is leave taken at short notice, another employee has to cover the work who
is not familiar with it, takes longer to complete it, and worse case, makes mistakes
that need to be rectified by others costing your business time and money
o Or the employee in question has to complete the work the following day, is already
behind with their workload and trying to catch up, is under greater pressure, and
worse case makes mistakes or goes off sick with work-related stress
o The timescale for production of the work has to be extended, and the
commissioning client is dissatisfied, possibly withdraws their business for the future
and worse case tells others to avoid using your business.
o The employee resents having to use up their holiday for the sake of the boiler when
they would much rather save it for a) school holidays b) that skiing trip they have
planned with friends or c) some much need relaxation time at Christmas with their
family and so it forms a splinter in your employer/employee relationship.
Option 2 – Work from home
o While waiting for the plumber to arrive (which as we all know could be at any
time!), the employee continues working on the important document that your
client is waiting to be completed
o Your business provides a continuing service and maintains its high standards
o Your client is satisfied that the work is completed to the agreed timescale
o Your client recommends your services to others, which in turn leads to more
o Your client pays their bill on time (and does not quibble) so your cashflow is
o Your employee is pleased that their employer adopts such a common-sense and
flexible approach to the situation
o Your employee feels trusted, valued and important to your business
o A stronger relationship of mutual trust is forged between employer and employee
You might think that these are extreme or exaggerated examples, and option one is certainly not
intended to be an argument against annual leave per se, but it seeks to demonstrate the possible
impact that unplanned absence can have on your business.
Equally, working from home is not suitable for every type of job role – traffic wardens or flight
attendants for example might have trouble arguing for home-working, even on an “ad hoc” basis,
but for many job roles it can be a reasonable and sensible solution to situations when employees
cannot make it into the workplace, even if it is not adopted as a general policy.
A recent study by Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) looked at flexible working practices at
several large organisations. It concluded that after introducing a system of informal home-working,
the organisations had reduced sickness absence and higher performance and morale. Many found
that introducing “ad hoc” homeworking helped managers be more accepting of more formal
permanent arrangements for flexible home-working.
This form of practice is suitable for situations such as when employees cannot get into work due to
severe weather conditions or transport disruptions, or where their childcare arrangements break
down or their child is sick (there is also a legal obligation in this instance, so getting legal advice is
essential). In principle, where the employee is willing and able to work but cannot make it into the
office, it makes sense to allow them to work from home rather than taking a strict stance and
withholding pay or forcing them to take annual leave. It also goes a long way towards good
So how do you make it work?
There are several key things to remember if you allow “ad hoc” home-working, or indeed any other
more permanent flexible working arrangements.
- Trust your employee - Only you as a manager or business owner know your employees and
if you trust them to keep to their side of the arrangement. You could always do it initially as
a trial and make it subject to review. Make sure that an employee working from home feels
just as valued as one in the office, and that their work is just as important to the business so
that they maintain motivation.
- Agree clear objectives - It is helpful for both you and your employee to know and agree on
what is expected of them during the time they are working from home. Targets can be set
based on various criteria, and need not really differ from those that apply when they are in
the office. You can discuss and agree on the evidence (if any) that is to be provided by the
employee. This may be simply logging in and out times on your remote computer system.
You should build any off-site practices into your existing performance management systems.
- Ensure workplace acceptance - Make sure through training and company communications
that home-working is a positive thing, that it is open to all employees to request and that
requests will be considered fairly and consistently. For employees in the office, ensure that
they give the same support to off-site colleagues as to on-site ones. Don’t forget about
employees who are not there in front of you – out of sight should not be out of mind! Train
your managers to be adaptable in their approach and to help you move your business away
from the traditional and towards the progressive.
- Enable the employee in practical terms - Have you set up secure password-protected
remote access to your computer systems to enable the employee to work from home? Are
you offering the same level of management support and access to company resources that
the employee would get in the office? Make sure that home-working employees are
included in emails, meeting invites, etc. Enable telephone conferencing or Skype where
possible. Your investment in appropriate systems will be rewarded in the long term.
As a business, you probably already have some facilities and arrangements in place to enable a more
flexible approach. For instance if you provide your employees with laptops or smartphones, if they
work “on the road” as part of their job (from trains or cars) and link back to the office, if they share
desk-space or work from time to time from other locations, offices or venues. The impact on your
business need not be as significant as you might think. In fact, the positive impact may take you by
Gelbergs Solicitors is based in Islington, London N1 and offers a comprehensive multi-disciplinary HR
advice and employment law service to employers. We would be happy to hear from any business
owners who would like a free assessment of their employment contracts, and HR policies and
procedures, or who would like to discuss implementing flexible working practices in their business
but don’t know where to start.
Call us on 020 7226 0570 and ask for Emmajane Taylor-Moran or Jane Manville. Our website can be
found at www.gelbergs.co.uk and twitter at @gelbergs
As much as I am looking forward to being spoilt this Sunday, I will be reflecting on just how lucky I am as a mum (of course!) but also how our social positioning has changed over the decades.
Women today are encouraged to be ambitious and believe that anything is possible - we can have it all, right? We should be immensely proud and be celebrated as we continue to break through barriers in business and society. We have achieved this along with running a house, sustaining relationships and most importantly raising a family.
Over the decades we have gained much more freedom and considerable opportunities as women and this definitely should be celebrated. We owe a big thanks to our grandmothers!
Today we are fortunate to be better positioned financially and socially compared to women generations before us, but we still have a long way to go. It is positive that more women return to the workplace after becoming a mum these days but it is a shame that of all the non full-time jobs available on the market, only 5% are quality career jobs. So many skills are wasted as women take roles which require less skills than they have achieved in their careers. It is proven that businesses are taking steps to improve their appetite for flexible working and this is a step in the right direction. The real benefits of companies sourcing from a talent pool of mums are hugely positive - loyalty, efficient budgeting, commitment and motivated are just a few to mention.
So on reflection, this Mother's Day we have lots to celebrate and be optimistic about. Small steps but in the right direction!
Over a year ago just over 20 of FTSE 100 companies in the UK did not have female representation on their boards. In the last quarter of 2011 this had reduced by a third and as we come to a close of the first quarter of 2012, this figure is 50% less.
For years the number of women on boards barely moved. A female EU Justice commissioner, Viviane Reding suggests that at the current rate it could possibly take up to 40 years for women to have equal representation on boards throughout Europe.
Lord Davies set out over a year ago by aiming to encourage businesses to have 25% female representation on their board by 2015. We see the improvement today as women actually account for 15% of FTSE 100 directorships, which has improved from 12.5%.
The business secretary, Vince Cable believes quotas are not necessary at the moment and firmly believes in businesses making a more voluntary approach. 'Increasing female board representation is a win-win proposition for business. Well-balanced boards with broader experience introduce fresh perspectives and new ideas, which help improve performance and boost productivity,'said Cable.
The push for this government to place on businesses needs to be relentless. 'Some excellent work has taken place...however, I must also emphasise that efforts need to be ramped up and the speed of change accelerated if we're to avoid government interferences,' Davies added.
Board representation should be gained through experience and effectiveness of an individual and of which doesn't just focus on the gender 'norm' which is irrelevant. If you have earned your position through meritocracy, gender should not come into the equation.
Posted in News
Welcome to our new website!
allmumkind has evolved into a new chapter and has developed a brand new service just for you. We have created a new site which is a web based recruitment service offering flexible vacancies for professional and talented women. We are very excited to share our new service with you which has been created based upon our research and popular requests for a dedicated site to feature flexible roles for talented and professional women and in particular mums.
Our service is UK wide and supports all industrial sectors and promotes all flexible vacancies from support function right the way through to senior appointments.
You will be able to continue reading our advice and information section about women and their careers after motherhood. We have regular updates and polls/discussions about the flexible market within the UK. Our blog section continues to feature articles about balancing work alongside being a mum.
You can register today for FREE and start creating your very own career profile in advance of identifying a flexible role which suits you and your skills. We hope you enjoy our new service and spread the word!
Posted in News
I’ve just come back from a week's holiday from work. Despite advising all and sundry of my few day's absence, spending lots of time to prepare for my absence and leaving meticulous notes for my "cover", I still came back to a mountain of emails, meetings and work requests.
By Monday lunchtime I was just about raising my head above the parapet, when I was landed with prep for an important Board meeting mid-week and down the ladder I went to sit firmly in Square One again!
I found myself wondering if my few days away from the office were really worth all the pain and suffering (slight exaggeration) I was now experiencing and wondered was there anything else I could have done to prepare for my absence.
I'm going away for 3 weeks in April and quite frankly am dreading to what I'll come back to...
Is this the price I have to pay for having half term off to spend quality time with my son? I'm wondering how other cope and what your experiences are. I'm looking forward to hearing your comments!
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The struggle for mothers to secure decent flexible jobs is prominently placed across the newspaper’s today and has been discussed on several prime time TV shows. And rightly so. There needs to be more of it!
It is quite clear that employers need more encouragement to look outside of the “full time” v’s “part time” work scenario. Many companies are embracing this issue and are promoting flexible work policies, but so much more needs to be done.
The reports today look at various research carried out and it is shocking to see how many women represented poor part-time opportunities. Many of the women questioned felt that their career stalled as soon as they became mums.
The problem is so many women who previously held down skilled/experienced jobs want to work. The positions on offer do not always accommodate the same or similar level of skill away from full time hours, meaning that part time jobs are the only option. Unfortunately, many companies offer a part time job which requires less skills. This is where the frustration lies with the lack of quality of the roles.
A massive talent pool of women is available to employers. Loyal, hard working, professional and committed women looking to utilise their skills and experience but flexibly. Netmums highlights this by saying employers are “wasting an incredible talent pool”. The co-founder of the website, Sally Russell goes on to say “It’s unbelievable that women are encouraged to climb the career ladder only to be forced back to the lowest rung when they have children”.
The crippling cost of childcare is one of the biggest barriers to most women returning to skilled work. In the UK it is estimated that parents spend one third of net household incomes on childcare. This is one of the highest costs for childcare in Europe. This is outrageous considering the state of the economy and many families are struggling financially.
Posted in News
The recent spate of bad weather reminded me of how lucky I am to work for an organisation which promotes flexible working.
But what does flexible working mean to you? I work ‘full time’ ie 40 hours (and the rest!) per week, so for me it’s working around a core set of hours which are both beneficial to me and for my company. In practice this means that I can usually drop my child off in the mornings at school, and on occasion, do the pick up. As long as I put the hours in, no-one minds.
My company also offers the ability to work from home. This is great as I don’t have to take a precious day’s holiday to wait in for the gas man, deliveries, etc and I can work without constant interruptions from passing colleagues. As I write there is a commotion going on around the coffee machine which is quite frankly, very distracting! So the ‘facility’ to work from home on occasion is invaluable to me.
However before you can effectively work from home you have to do a bit of preparation. The practicalities of working from home are resolved by logging into a virtual private network (set up by my company beforehand) and relying my mobile phone. It’s as good as, if not better, than being in the office; I have access to 99% of the systems I would use in the office and I can drink coffee that doesn’t taste like ground tar, which has got to be a major plus in anyone’s book!
So how frequently do I work from home? Well, apart from working at home for when it suits my personal life (deliveries, being on hand for child-related issues, and having to be home to get ready for that important night out etc) I opt do this from time to time mostly in order to undertake parts of my job that require peace and quiet, and total concentration. I find that my working from home days are often the most productive in terms of getting the best value from me. There are no distractions to talk of (the TV and radio stay firmly switched off!) As long as the job gets done, my boss is happy. I like to show my face in the offices I work in each week so they don’t forget who I am, and my desk doesn’t get farmed out to every passing peripatetic colleague and claimed as their own! As with life, it’s all a matter of balance.
I also set myself a few ground rules;
get dressed… slobbing around in PJ’s all day is not going to put me in the right frame of mind for writing that business critical report. Compartmentalising the different parts of my life really does have a psychological effect I find, and the more the lines of them are blurred into one mad disorganised mess, the less effective I am going to be.
do not turn on the TV or radio… as tempting as watching Phil and Holly discuss the merits of the A-line versus the pencil skirt are, once you get sucked into being easily distracted, that “ten minute break” you promised yourself, quickly turns into an hour, as Gino lures you into how best to make a fat-free, low-cal, chocolate cake…..
prepare for working at home… Before you leave the office, forward your office desk phone to your mobile, or leave a message indicating that you’re working at home and leave the number you can be contacted on. Be accessible otherwise people will just think you’re skiving!
Try to mirror your office set up as much as you can… I may be sat at the kitchen table, but I try to ensure I have my laptop, phone, necessary paperwork/files/memory stick, stationery and other officey-type accoutrements to hand otherwise I’ll get bogged down in the minutiae of not having them and consequently be really miffed myself for not having them.
As a result of this flexibility, being mindful of business Vs personal objectives, and a few simple ground rules, I’m likely to be more productive and less stressy because I’m working in a way which gets the best out of me. Compromises are few, pennies are saved in the lack of commuting, and work production is high. What’s not to love!?
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Posted in Flexible working