Flexibility can only be a good thing.
It’s the end of a very long week for many people, I imagine! But here is a little ray of sunshine for those of you who might need it.
When this is over, I believe the spirit of the working world will be kinder, more understanding and more flexible. And that will lead to a more diverse workforce which will help the economy to thrive and surge forward with creativity. And I don’t mean artistic creativity. I mean thinking creatively about problems that need solving. Because the more diverse a workforce is. The more diverse thinking is.
So many will benefit from flexible working, particularly people with disabilities, people dealing with mental health issues and people with dependents; they all have so much to offer the working world, but couldn’t contribute before because the world is moving too slowly to create flexible working environments.
Before lockdown I had been working from home on and off for about 5 years.
After having my first son I realised that my job didn’t need to be done in an office. And by staying at home I could get more done in a shorter amount of time both in work mode and in the home. AND I could put the kids to bed. Everybody was benefiting from it.
Here are five things that happened when I started working from home.
I became more focused.
I work in an exciting creative industry. My colleagues and I all love a natter! So when I’m at the office, there can often be hours of the day just spent shooting the breeze with people. Which is great for my social needs. But not for deadlines.
At home, without distractions, I am more productive. I can set my goals and meet them quicker. I check in with my colleagues regularly but it’s to serve the needs of the task in hand rather than to talk about Love is Blind on Netflix.
I complete my tasks quicker and because I do that I have time in my day to stick a wash on. Prep dinner. Wazz the hoover round. And that means I’m not having to do it on the weekend when my kids are home, and instead I’m hanging out with them at the park. Win win.
I became more understanding.
I started to realise that everyone has their own reason for needing flexible work. As I opened up to more people about where I was working, I got to hear from others about their working environments. Some people had to take care of parents. Some people were recovering from an illness so needed a slower pace and to avoid public transport. Some were trying to be around more for their kids who were settling in to new schools. Everyone had a valid and understandable reason for making part of their home their office. All these reasons are so valid, but none of them should mean they can’t work. Or someone that is in the office is doing a better job because they are ‘seen’.
I got better at my job.
Something magical happens when you are wearing clothes for you and no one else, in your own home with all the stuff you’ve chosen to put into it, sitting in a room with pictures of elephants on hot air balloons on the walls (I’d turned my nursery into my office). It was a joy to be in my own environment and I found it easier to talk to people. Which means people trust you more, and in my job it made my conversations easier, and lighter, and produced better relationships and therefore better content.
People resented me at work.
From the get-go I had made the decision to work from home whenever I could. So I negotiated that flexibility with each of my new contracts. I also asked employers if they would mind if I left early each day to get home and put the kids to bed and then log on at 7.30 to finish off my day at work (or come in earlier each day). They didn’t have a problem with it at all. But some of my peers did. As I packed up my laptop and shot for the door I would see the looks, the eye rolls, the thick loaded atmosphere as I packed up my things. They thought that because I was leaving early, I was getting paid the same as them for doing less work. But (all together now) that wasn’t true. You see all those points above? Well those things came with me when I did go to the office. So I entered less into chit chat in the office and got shit done. I knew I had more time with my family coming so I was more relaxed and more productive. And I enjoyed being in the office environment and doing the commute because I didn’t have to do it every day. Itsu, anyone?
Employers get the best of me every day.
Whether I’m in the office or WFH I always have a smile on my face because the flexibility has given me everything I need in my life to be happy. A fulfilling career and time with my family.
Flexible working works for me, but I was one of the lucky ones, how many other people in similar situations to me have had to leave their industry because their employers weren’t open to flexible working?
I believe that when this is all over, the working world will be more understanding and better equipped to employ a more diverse and inclusive work force. And nothing is more important than that for the future world of work.