Break The Rules And Re-Invent Your 9-5

06/07/2017 13:05 BST | Updated 06/07/2017 13:06 BST

The world of work is changing.  We already spend more than 90,000 hours of our lives at work (http://www.businessinsider.com/disturbing-facts-about-your-job-2011-2?IR=T#the-average-person-spends-90000-hours-at-work-over-their-lifetime-2) - more than 10 years solid - and this is set to increase as retirement ages and our pensions vanish into the distance.

Most of us are still going to be working when we're 70.

But more importantly, more of us are finding ways of reinventing the office based nine to five to create a more blended work/life balance.

It's not just young people who want to change the way they work either - increasingly, it's older people who are realising there's more than a one-size-fits-all way of earning a crust. 

In particular, working mums are innovating the ways they work as strict in-office hours are often not compatible with raising a family. 

It's also becoming more acceptable to decide to re-invent yourself and change direction at least once in your career. Increasingly, we're getting into our forties and trying something new. It's about having the confidence to break the rules and realise your career doesn't just have to be in a straight line - it can be wiggly.

You can - whisper it - be happier, healthier, as well as more productive and creative when the 9-5 is working for you.

We need to realise flexible working is the future.

Digital Mums know this - they specialise in training women with families to become social media experts so they can work part-time for small businesses. Digital Mums did some research which found six out of 10 working mothers don't have access to flexible work, despite laws introduced in 2014, and nearly seven out of 10 stay-at-home mums would go back to work if flexible work was an option (https://digitalmums.com/blog/workthatworks-report).

I genuinely believe you have the right to ask for flexibility at work but you do have to hold up your end of the bargain - which is to be brilliant and dedicated to what you do. Show your boss that you are not just capable of working effectively in this way but that it works really well for all involved, including the business. 

 

I work a four day week as a CEO. When I first started this job, my daughter was six weeks old. I took Fridays 'off' but was fully in touch with work on those days. 

There were definitely hysterical moments where writing a work email while trying to feed a baby didn't quite work out! But we muddled through. In fact, I was ruthlessly efficient in the early days of mummyhood at work as I had the deadline of bathtime to make. It made me really focussed and driven and certainly didn't affect the bottom line for the business.

You will hit barriers though as there are still some people who think it's impossible to work outside of a traditional 9-5, five days a week in an office way. As a result, there's so much talent that gets lost, particularly female talent.

We need more role models - people need to see it to be it. We need more people at senior levels doing this. You should show from the top down that you can work flexibly, then it will become more and more acceptable. A male CEO taking shared parental leave for example would encourage more men that this is acceptable and move us more quickly towards Swedish culture where parental leave is truly shared. 

It's really critical that businesses start to adopt true flexibility and to do that they need to work on this cultural change. After all, by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35460401), and they don't want to work 9-5 in an office either. It's another reason why it's in everyone's interests to encourage agile working. 

If businesses introduced more flexible working, they'd retain millennials, attract Gen Zers and stop mums quitting altogether. 

Businesses need to start thinking about flexible working as a commercial positive which can actually benefit their bottom line as well as the people they employ. Talent is the most important thing for all businesses and one way to maximise who you attract is to have a more open approach to the hours and ways people work.

Plus, as technology evolves, the advancement of AI marches on and new niche skills emerge, it may well become the case that you don't always have enough work in certain aspects of your business to employ someone full time in a particular role. 

 

So having part time, flexible working people who have specialist skills working at different times that you can call on is actually a really great business model and one that won't bust the bank!

As fast as our culture and populations are changing so is 'work'. We have to adapt to wiggly line careers and break the uniformity of the 9-5 to continue to attract the best talent and to profitably run our businesses.

'Work your way' is an increasingly loud mantra that businesses need to listen to.