Why We Are Making Such A Fuss About Flexible Working

03/04/2017 13:24 BST | Updated 03/04/2017 13:25 BST

In the 25 years since I first got a job I have seen the expectation of employers in terms of hours worked increase significantly.

My first job, at 14, was in a tearooms in a national trust property on the weekends and I would scoff cake and serve grannies tea and cake happily working 8 hours a day on my feet because I was 14. Even the full time staff didn't work over 45 hours.

I had a range of jobs pre-university in retail, clubs, bars, customer service and sales and it was always unusual for people to work over 45 hours.

After university my first job was in recruitment and I remember how ridiculous it was that you had to stay in the office until 8pm Monday to Thursday. We were putting in 11-12 hour days and I know that from 5.30pm most days the majority of us had left the building - fag breaks, chocolate breaks, tea breaks and emailing friends became the top priorities.

We were putting in "Facetime" and it made me feel resentful, I couldn't understand why if you hadn't got any work (or any motivation) you couldn't leave earlier and either come back to things later that night or the next day...

12 years ago I became a teacher and was in a career, which has very little flexibility. So much so that as an Assistant Head Teacher (and previous Deputy Head) I was working such long hours I didn't even get to see my one year old on her first birthday.

I was living to work and I was exhausted. I speak to my friends in different industries and it is a similar story. The expectation from so many employers is that you work long hours, are based in an office and that you respond to emails at the drop of a hat. It is ridiculous. No wonder workplace stress and mental health issues due to work are on the increase.

Physically we aren't developed to spend our time sitting in one position staring at a screen, eating our food hunched over our desks and having a mobile clutched in our hand to reply to emails.

As a nation (and especially in London) there still seems to be a badge of honour about working long hours.

The reason that flexible working is so popular with mums (and dads) is because you have to confront what you are doing when you need to be at nursery at 6pm (or get fined every minute you are late). You can no longer pretend that your working habits are okay or workable.

So many studies point to the fact that you are more productive when you are able to spend time by yourself and do things like exercise, read and learn. In a lot of today's jobs it is hard to find the time to do this especially when you add on a commute and kids.

I am passionate about flexible working as I know that a happy workforce is a productive workforce. Allowing your team time off during the day to exercise or study or do whatever they please will make them more productive. Allowing them to work from home doesn't mean they will skive off but get more done (no commute, no office gossip).

Many of us have created our own businesses to give us the flexibility that we crave but being an entrepreneur isn't for everyone. Businesses and public sector organisations need to realise that what makes them great is the people. When you treat people with respect they get more done for you, it is that simple.

I believe everyone is entitled to flexible working and that if we embraced it as a nation we would be richer, happier and more productive. This is why I am going to be in my lycra tomorrow dancing with @motherpukka in Trafalgar Square.