I heard it talked about quite a lot when I was pregnant. The working mum’s holy grail – working three days a week. That flexibility was something I had wanted but wouldn’t have been possible in the job I had whilst pregnant, since I’d heard the perennial excuse of ‘if we let you work part-time then we’d have to let everyone else in the team have the same flexibility,’ and ‘I don’t think some jobs can be done part-time.’ The thing is I worked for a company that said it would consider flexible working requests, but in reality flexibility meant giving you the equipment to work outside the office but visibility was considered too important to let people work from home on a regular basis . There were other factors too, like the long commute and the rising cost of rail fares. So I left, just like thousands of other women in Britain do.
Mother Pukka, is keen to highlight that 54,000 women in Britain during 2017, were forced out of their roles after becoming pregnant or returning to working post baby, according to new research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Why was the three days a week so important? Well, for me it is all about balance (I’m very much a Libran). I wanted to have some quality time with my son and be able to manage my home life but I also wanted to use my 10 years+ experience in marketing communications and keep my skills up to date and relevant. I wanted to earn my own money and work when I’m young so I can have a more comfortable life when I’m older. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Throw in the fact that my husband travels abroad at least once a month with his work, which means that I have to do every childcare drop off and pick up and suddenly having flexibility is a must.
I hoped I’d be able to return to a marketing and communications job with an employer that did understand the broader sense of flexibility. Once my little boy had turned one, I started the job hunt. I registered with some local agencies that specialised in flexible jobs but I knew I would have to spend some of my time searching for the right role, so I sought out employers in my local area that I thought would be more open to flexible working. Local hospices, a local NHS trust, my local council and my local housing association.
Guess what? It paid off, although it did take a while. Nearly an entire year, and it didn’t come without a few setbacks. I hadn’t had an interview for six years and I didn’t get the first job I interviewed for. When I applied for another job that offered four days a week for the right person, it became apparent in the interview, this wasn’t going to be the case. I also got asked, ‘Why do you want this job?’ by recruitment consultants because they could see I was over qualified and had earned substantially more money in the past. I had to explain that that was the price I had to pay for flexibility.
I had got to the point where I thought never mind, I’m just going to stay at home and be a mum for a bit longer, it wasn’t if I hated what I was doing! Quite the opposite my son was becoming more interactive everyday and was more of a toddler than a baby now but when I saw a job advertised that was local, in marketing and two days a week, I jumped at it.
I got shortlisted and attended an interview five weeks after applying for the role, which seemed like a long time. I felt the interview went well but again had the feeling that I came across as someone used to leading on projects and campaigns, rather than assisting. Then to my surprise the unthinkable happened. I received a phone call and was told that I was being offered a job, whoo hoo! Although it wasn’t the job I interviewed for. They felt that I was more suited to the full time role they had been recruiting for, my skills and experience was a better match for it and would I consider doing it three days a week. Yes, the holy grail. A full time job being offered to me at three days a week.
After going through some questions with my manager I felt confident that this was the right job for me and with the right organisation. What astounds me, is that this organisation does not have a flexitime work policy, since there are many roles where this wouldn’t be manageable but they do consider flexible work requests. They get it – they understand what the broader sense of flexibility at work means. Some of my team work outside normal working hours to get their job done and avoid the commuter traffic. Occasionally, people work through their lunch hour so they can leave a little bit earlier. There are less meetings compared to my previous job so more time for people to get their work done within the working day.
For me, I am very focussed and committed for the three days I’m in the office. My workload is varied but I am using technology to schedule emails communications and social media posts, to go out when I’m not in the office. Some members of my team pick things up when I’m not there but I also pick up tasks from them, when I am in the office. Team meetings are planned mid-week making sure everyone can make them. It’s win-win so far and makes me think that flexible working is really about listening and appreciating what the person doing the job really needs. They need balance, they need understanding and just a bit of consideration. They in return, they will offer these things back to their employer and those they work with. My mindset is going to be how much I can do in three days a week, rather than thinking what I could do if I had more time. My son is going to get a mum that is more fulfilled and my husband will get a more contented wife. My employer gets my gratitude, loyalty and commitment by giving me a job that allows me to have some balance. Now what price would you put on that?