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.