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Why I Disagree With Flexible Working For Mums

27/02/2017 14:06
IuriiSokolov via Getty Images

Why should flexible working only be available for parents? What about the rest of us who don't feel at their most productive when forced to sit for a set number of hours staring at the computer screen every single day?

This week Sorcha, my company's co-founder, took part in Flex Appeal Glasgow with her two young children. This is one of the flash mob events taking place around the country, organised by journalist Anna Whitehouse, aka Mother Pukka.

Mother Pukka Flash Mob, Trafalgar Square

Anna is working hard to promote and get more businesses to sign up to the Working Forward pledge - launched by The Equality and Human Rights Commission to make our workplaces the best they can be for pregnant women and new mothers.

But why should the focus solely be on pregnant women and mothers? I believe the rest of us deserve flexibility in our lives too.

To be fair to Anna, she also agrees that flexible working is an option that should be available for anyone.

Working from home, or choosing your own hours, seems like the ideal solution to a hectic lifestyle spent trying to fit in all the commitments that entails. With flexible working, you can stay at home for the postman / plumber / electrician, without the worry that you will be in trouble when you finally make it into the office later on. You can spend all day in your pyjamas, working from your kitchen table or even working from bed - with such a short commute your productivity will surely skyrocket?

The reality can be somewhat different. Having spent the last few years working from home, there are some harsh realities that I have had to face up to.

Flexible working requires an enormous amount of self-discipline
Without a boss potentially walking around the corner and checking your computer screen at any moment, what's to stop you from sneaking in a cheeky episode on Netflix, or reading the latest updates on your favourite blogs when you need a little break from work? If you are prone to procrastination, it can be a slippery slope to the 'breaks' becoming short bursts of productivity while you consider which box set to start on next.

When you are in a different work time-zone there is often no one around when you need them
One of the most frequent concerns I hear about from companies considering flexible working options is that employees won't be around for impromptu meetings. With internet connections these days, it is hardly a problem bringing someone in on Skype, though, is it? To me, the problem is more likely to be faced by the employee who has decided they are most productive between 11pm and 2am. Who do they call to bounce ideas around with then?

When your work and home environments are one and the same, separation is not always possible
Commuting to and from an office every day provides a clear separation between work-life and home-life. When the boundary becomes blurred, it can be very easy to slip into a mindset where you always have half an eye on work, no matter what you are doing. If you are lucky enough to have a separate home office, shutting the door and stepping away when you are off-duty can help. Though the temptation to pop back whenever a new work-related thought enters your head can be hard to resist.

However, whilst working from home might not be the magic bullet solution to achieving the coveted work-life-balance that so many people are seeking, having the option available is important.

From an employer's perspective, I am surprised that flexible working isn't already offered as standard. Savings on rent can be significant, when a large proportion of your workforce is not in the office at any given time. Lambeth Council, for example, claims it will save £4.5 million per year in property running costs by making sure that no more than 60% of its staff are in at one time.

Joining the growing number of businesses offering flexible working as standard seems like a no-brainer to me. Improved employee satisfaction, productivity and staff retention should be aspired to by every company.

So we are proud to take part in Anna's Flex Appeal campaign - and just hope that the Working Forward pledge will be the first step towards more flexible working options for all employees, not just mums.

Click here for more information about the government's Working Forward pledge.

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