Okay, I know I normally do short rants, but there is just so much to say on the subject of flexible working isn’t there? Plus I want to talk to you about the Hire Me My Way campaign for more part-time and flexible jobs, and I have a personal story from another blogger to share, so all in all it’s a pretty jam-packed post.
You lucky things!
When you stop to think about ‘work’ as a concept, it’s crazy really. Let’s take your basic office job. A 9am start maybe? An hour for lunch, and then home in time for Pointless and some fish fingers and chips. For starters, the whole idea of everyone going to work and going home at the same time is madness. It’s not wonder we have traffic problems is it?! I mean, who came up with that?! ‘Oh yeah, I know, it would be GREAT if we had everyone try to travel to and from work at the same time everyday! Wouldn’t that be AWESOME?’
No, it’s not awesome.
And then you’ve got the whole productivity issue. All of the research, like this, says that flexible working increases productivity, that when we trust our staff to work from home, or to work compressed hours, or whatever it might be, that we get more out of them. So why are so many employers still so scared to embrace flexible working?
Do they not trust us? Do they imagine that the minute they’re not looking, everyone will just be at home playing on Facebook? Because I hate to break it to you bosses, but there are plenty of people sat at their desks right now sneaking a look at Facebook – keeping them locked in an office for set hours every day isn’t going to solve that.
My experiences of part-time and flexible work
I graduated from university with a first class economics degree (and four year old daughter) in 2000. I went straight into a job, training to be an actuary. I was earning good money, but it was a proper commitment: 9am – 5.30pm every day, with an hour’s commute on the train at each end. It was pretty awful if I’m honest. I used to go for lunch and sit in the park and try to think of how I could get out of going back. I hated being tied to one desk, day in day out.
It wasn’t me.
When Belle was born in 2002, I left that job. Belle was what you’d call high maintenance – see this post about her four favourite things – and leaving her while I went back to a full time job after a year just wasn’t an option. I needed work closer to home, with flexible hours. I knew that this was going to be tough and so I was prepared to lower my expectations career wise, at least temporarily. Even so, finding a job was damn hard.
To make the point, I took this little quiz on the Hire Me My Way website. I put in my details as they were then, back in 2004, when I was looking to return to work, and lo and behold, even now, there is apparently a less than 5% chance of me finding a job to suit my needs. And that’s not even thinking about the sort of work I might want to do.
Isn’t that bonkers?!
I am (and was, just about) an intelligent, well-qualified woman, a quick learner, a team player. Why was there no work for me?! I ended up applying for jobs that were way below my capabilities, just to try to get something. I failed to get the most basic admin jobs and for a while I wondered if I would ever go back to work. I’d got my graduate job easy peasy – why was it so hard for me to find something part-time??
I ended up in the most ridiculous of situations. I worked mornings as an administrator for a local charity, where I was able to start at 9.30am after I’d dropped Belle at preschool. ‘Lunch’ was eating a sandwich in the car while I drove to my job at a different charity, where I was a trust fundraiser and was allowed to leave at 3pm to pick Belle up again, working extra hours at home in the evenings. On top of that, I was the clerk to the governors at Bee’s school – possibly one of the most boring jobs in the world, but it had that elusive element of flexibility. I was doing the equivalent of full time hours, but on a total salary of around half of what I was earning before, with no intellectual challenge at all.
It pretty much sucked.
The Hire Me My Way campaign
The Hire Me My Way campaign is led by Timewise, a multi-award winning social business. Do go and have a look – it only takes a minute to add your name to the campaign and you could be helping to change lives. The vision of the Hire Me My Way campaign is that ‘everyone should be able to find the flexibility they need in their job, without losing their value in the workplace.’ Hire Me My Way aims to get hundreds of Britain’s biggest employers to open up more of their jobs to flexibility at the point of hire. Their goal is for one million part-time or flexible jobs to be advertised annually in the UK, by 2020 – about three times the current level.
So what’s the problem?
Well, if my story hasn’t convinced you, here are a few facts:
- Fewer than 1 in 10 jobs paid over £20K FTE are advertised with flexible working options (fewer than 1 in 5 offer part-time).
- 1.5 million people are trapped in low paid part-time jobs below their skill/salary level, because there are not enough quality flexible jobs to apply for. They have traded salary for flexibility, and their skills are going to waste.
- Over 400,000 workless people want to work, but can’t unless they can find a suitable part-time or flexible job.
That’s not cool!
No one wins here. Employees lose out on decent work and employers are missing out on this vast, untapped resource. There are people out there, qualified people who want to work, but they just need a little flexibility.
On the Hire Me My Way website you can pledge your support for the campaign, either as an individual or employer, access resources, and check out which businesses are already good at offering flexible working. There’s also a great downloadable 13 page booklet, full of advice to help you find flexible or part-time work. Do go and have a look – it only takes a minute to add your name to the campaign and you could be helping to change lives.
Alice Judge-Talbot is a fellow blogger and creator of the fabulous More Than Toast. (I actually had a dream last week about Alice – she was pregnant, with a massive bump, but trying to continue a career as an exotic dancer without anyone noticing. Perhaps we won’t tell her that though. Bit weird. She’s not actually an exotic dancer, just to confirm.)
A quick look at Alice’s blog confirms that flexible working is an issue very near the top of her ‘things to worry about’ pile. I spoke to Alice about flexible working, the Hire Me My Way campaign, and why it’s important to her, both as an individual and an employer.
‘My career has always been in marketing,’ says Alice, ‘which was great as a footloose and fancy-free woman in her early 20s, but as a thirty-something single mum with two kids in tow it proved much harder. I’d managed to work my way up to director-level within a Marketing agency, but with meetings starting at 8am and late nights expected in the office it just didn’t work: nursery hours were never long enough and I missed my children terribly.’
‘Which is why working freelance and flexibly has been a god-send. I take my children to school every day and pick them up three days out of five, plus I’m able to take time out for important nativity plays and fundraising activities. I mostly work from home so I’m here if they’re poorly, not rushing around the country to different meetings. I have to be motivated and it’s sometimes a lonely way of working, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives.’
Alice appreciates the importance of flexible working and wants to create flexible work opportunities for other women in the same position.
‘I’ve recently started a marketing consultancy,’ says Alice, ‘A&Co, and I’m determined to work solely with women like me who are talented, driven and keen to get back to their careers but don’t want to be a slave to the traditional long hours of the creative industries. I’m excited that more and more people are realising there’s more than one way of working and, for me, the contentment that comes from a flexible job and a happier work/life balance creates a much more productive work environment.’
Help make the change you want to see
I’m lucky now. I’ve created a ‘job’ for myself that involves playing on Twitter and going on mini breaks. I want to leave early for a school carol concert I just have to ask nicely, perhaps buy myself a little bar of fudge as a sweetener, and off I go. It’s been hard work, but the benefits far outweigh any of the negatives.
Not everyone is as lucky as me though, which is why you have to go and pledge your support to the Hire Me My Way campaign now. It only takes a minute to add your name to the campaign, and there is loads more info on the site too if you need it.
(I told you it was long.)
(It’s definitely worn out this kitten.)