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Jenny Williams | 10 May 2018

What Flexibility Means to Me

Jenny Williams is one of our Client Directors and wrote a very insightful piece into the benefits of flexible working…

Yesterday I worked from home, and as I sat on my couch in the sun, I reflected on what flexible working actually means to me.

Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Report notes that 51% of employees want their employer to offer more flexible work options. Traditionally employers have thought of flexible working as a way of allowing full time employees to work reduced hours for a variety of reasons. For me, I enjoy working full time, but need flexibility to meet the demands of my family life. This has never been more true than yesterday.

You see, yesterday was not just an opportunity for me to work outside of the office. The cross country was on at my boys’ school and my eldest son, Sam, had decided he wanted to participate. What makes this a bit out of the ordinary is that Sam has a heart condition that can be triggered when he runs. We’ve always been keen for him to be involved in sports and not let his heart condition impact on his ability to participate in all forms of school activities, but as a mum, it can be a stressful time!!

So yesterday, I felt working from home meant that I could be closer to him if something went wrong – being 10 minutes away, as opposed to 30-40 minutes depending on traffic, makes a huge difference. This gave him, the school, and me all peace of mind and more confidence in him giving the cross country a go.

But it wasn’t just the work location that made the day a success.

The first, and most important, is that I work in an environment where I can be vulnerable and share my worries and concerns with my team and receive overwhelming support in return. I can bring my whole self to work, and being a mum of a child with a heart condition is a big part of that.

I was also able to control what work I did and, what really mattered, was that I was able to control the time at which I did it during the course of the day. The cross country started at 11am, and I knew that if Sam’s heart played up, the rest of the day could be impacted with a potential trip to the hospital.

In preparing for the day, I was able to arrange my schedule so I had client and team meetings in the morning, prior to 11am, and then save the afternoon for work that could be deferred, if necessary, and for reading and sending emails.

I have been in the unfortunate situation recently of having to defer a meeting due to Sam’s condition, and to be honest it’s a pain. Everyone is always incredibly understanding but the reality is other people are impacted, timelines need to change, and you feel like you are letting yourself and your team down. Being able to structure my day to minimise the likelihood of that happening is important to me. It is empowering to be able to figure out what would work best, and still feel like I was winning the day.

It goes without saying, having the tools and technology to enable flexible working are a must. More than just a laptop and a phone, I am lucky to have access to Slack to keep in touch with team and the happenings in the office throughout the day, and Zoom, for easy to use video conferencing so that team and client meetings can still be face to face. These two tools have made a huge difference in the feeling of connection I have despite being physically absent for the day.

Finally, working for an amazing company where there is high trust and the whole team is empowered to work in whichever way best suits them, means we are able figure out what works for us and for the team. Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean we all work from home any chance we get. We also recognise the importance of being physically present and the value you add and receive and the connections you create in the everyday conversations. Flexible working arrangements must strike a balance between what works for the employer and what works for the employee and their specific role.

So for me, flexibility gives me the best of both worlds – I can be there for my family when they need me, and I can still work full time, doing a job a love.

As an aside, Sam was great – he ran the whole cross country without pulling out and his heart was fine, and I was able to finish the rest of my working day from home, in the sunshine.

Humankind is passionate about helping people love what they do and do what they love. We can support you to put in place flexible working arrangements that are right for your organisation and help create an amazing employee experience.

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