I count myself very lucky to work at such a modern, compassionate workplace. Family friendly isn’t just a term that’s spoken about, it’s actually put into action. Flexibility is vital to meet the needs of working parents – both men and women. Flexibility is essential for people who are also not parents, they too have families to be mindful of and personal lives. And you know what? Personal lives matter. If you haven’t got your life in order outside of work, how can you possibly give your all when you are at work? If you work the whole time, to the neglect of creating an enriched life outside of work, I don’t truly believe you can provide a well-rounded performance.
Flexible workplaces that recognise that people have lives outside of work will ultimately attract and retain great staff. You care about them, they care about your organisation.
For me, I’ve been able to work remotely, both from my head office in Melbourne, but also from any office. I work from home part of the time and the Adelaide office for part of the time. The other parts I work from airports and hotel rooms and sometimes in bush tracks while people walk 100 km. At times, I’ve been able to adjust my working hours to meet the needs of my children and to make myself available to them when they need me most. My family will always come first – that’s how it should be. The acknowledgment of the importance of my family has made reentering the workforce again, after 8 years freelancing and full-time mothering, possible. Without it, I would not be able to work the hours I do.
Personally, I don’t believe people sitting at their desks for set hours is the most efficient way to work anymore. Computers, mobile phones and Skype mean that people are practically on call 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. The reality is most people work far longer hours than what’s on their time sheet anyway. In the past, you simply had to be in the room to communicate with your colleagues. You had no choice. Now you do, now you can meet virtually with colleagues from anywhere in the world. Why not from your desk at home while wearing your pjs? Why not enable your staff to work some of their hours from home? It’ll give them the moments they need to focus purely on work without the commuting and daily grind. A simple work day, while still popping a load of washing on in your lunch break. Time to yourself to sort out your work priorities without stopping for a chat at the water cooler. Or for working parents – the opportunity to pick your kids up from school or pop into class to do shared reading.
Of course, with greater flexibility over where you can work and the possible ways you can communicate with colleagues, does make switching off tricky. Disengaging from work is an issue that needs to be met head on. There should be communication, within even the most friendliest of workplaces, to ensure staff of all levels switch off. No replying to emails, phone calls or Facebook messages when you’ve done your work for the day. How will people ever leave the office behind and truly focus on creating a dynamic, enriched life if they are always thinking about work? It is something I am learning to get better at, yet tricky when your role is responding to media needs of an organisation.
Flexibility helps with switching off though. I know I will work outside of my hours regularly so at times when I need to dedicate to my family or simply to recharge myself, I feel ok about it. Perhaps the answer to ensuring your staff don’t get burn out is to provide the opportunity for them to work hours that suit them and take time out from their days to do other things when needed? Why have technology if you don’t embrace the possibility of change that comes with it? As long as the hours are worked, it shouldn’t be of a concern if it’s done at your desk, on your couch or at the local coffee shop. Being out in the world can only be a good thing and lead to a more relaxed, engaged and insightful workforce.
I know that my job is one I am very lucky to have. Slowly others are getting the same opportunities, well, the ones who work for smart organisations. Flexibility goes a long way.
And it’s not just about parenting…
I’m very lucky to work for an employer who allowed me to stop working full-time so that I could make room for pursuing my dream of becoming a published writer.
More companies should be as flexible as mine.
Yes, yes! Totally agree with everything here. I was just having this conversation the other day – physical presence at the office is no longer imperative for a lot of jobs, and companies need to be looking at offering more flexible options. I’m keen on the idea of shared remote workspaces presently (co-working, is that the term?) because I’m so over my 2hr-a-day commute to the big bad city.
“Personally, I don’t believe people sitting at their desks for set hours is the most efficient way to work anymore.”
YES! I couldn’t agree with this more. I am one of those people who sit at their desk for set hours and I can tell you – it’s not inspiring, it doesn’t make me amazingly productive and flexibility is hard fought for (on my behalf). I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can move on from my current role while still maintaining a regular paycheck, but have more flexibility to pursue my goals… hmmm….
I was fortunate enough to work for a company that allowed me to work from home for most of the years my daughter was at primary school- and for the first 3 years of high school. It meant I could be productive even on those rare occasions that she was sick- and available when she needed me. More importantly for the company, that flexibility was something that I couldn’t put a price on- and was the one thing that kept me there longer than I otherwise would have stayed. Now I’m running an operation, so have to be on the floor, but have negotiated a day off a week for personal writing projects.
Fantastic post. I gave up my “dream career” as diplomat because it was never going to have the flexibility I wanted. Not just for my family but also ton pursue other interests that make me a much more well-rounded and happy person. I left my career not knowing WHAT I wanted to do next, but knowing HOW I wanted to work. At the same time we made our vine change moving to the Barossa, and over the last 12 months, I’ve gradually got to the point where I have established my own consultancy, which is in it’s really early stages but I realised for me, this was a great way to have the flexibility I craved.
But it shouldn’t have to be about starting your own business, and I think many smart companies are evolving and realising that to retain the best people, they need to change the way work happens – and that’s more than just pinning a label of full or part time on a job.
Thanks again for sharing
this is great! i’m from Malaysia and a lot of great new companies back home that are deemed successful for their young age does practice flexibility. Employer – employee relations are also not traditional. Like, they’re more of a team working TOGETHER rather than the employer working FOR the employer.
I completely agree with you. It’s hard to find a workplace that allows flexibility, but it’s great when you do. The sad thing is, the workplaces that DO offer flexibility in terms of location and hours are often seen as progressive so therefore not the norm, so it’s often a real coup when someone gets to be part of a structure that allows this kind of working environment. Certain industries are also bigger on this than others. Hoping that the way forward – for everyone’s sake – is flexible working arrangements. 🙂