Jessica Heagren is the CEO and founder of That Works For Me, a platform bringing together organisations and highly skilled professionals, to work on a flexible basis. Jessica explains how flexible working can have a huge impact on women’s careers.
The Covid-19 pandemic shook our lives in so many ways, but one of the biggest changes has been to the world of work. Online video meetings, working from home and virtual collaboration became core parts of our working lives.
This crash-course in flexible working means many companies are saying farewell to the traditional (and dated!) idea of employees being in offices from 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.
But there’s still more work to be done.
There is now a tremendous opportunity for employers to drastically change the working landscape, and to make it more inclusive to women, many of whom are forced to leave the workforce because they’ve had to choose between their career and their families. It’s time for that to stop, and flexible working can be the driving force behind that change.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working goes far beyond leaving early on a Friday afternoon or being able to work from home for part of the week. There are countless flexible options and opportunities for employees and employers to choose from, including:
- Part-time hours
- Working on a freelance or contract/project basis
- A hybrid working model, where you split your time between the office and working remotely
- Being fully remote and working at home or in another location, away from the office
- Choosing your hours so they fit around your personal commitments such as childcare
- Staggering the hours you work on different days (Monday 9-5, Tuesday 11-7, for example)
- Shift-pattern working (this can work well for job shares or customer-facing time-sensitive work)
- Working on specific days and at certain times
All of these are options to look for and explore when considering a new role or discussing an opportunity with a potential new employer.
These are also options you can raise with your current employer. Once you have been in your job for six months, you have a legal right to flexible working arrangements. This means you can request to work flexibly, and your boss must consider it.
While there is no obligation for them to agree, they must prove they have considered the benefits and challenges and discuss it with you.
Many people don’t realise they have this right. In 2020, a study found that up to 22% of mothers and 58% of fathers aren’t aware of this law, especially those employed part-time.
The importance of flexible working
The ability to work flexibly can have a massive impact on a woman’s career. Historically, full-time working roles were designed around the assumption that a stay-at-home partner would manage a family’s childcare responsibilities. Leaving the full-time worker free to commit to long hours, office commutes and out-of-hours work obligations.
This is a legacy of the past that isn’t fit for modern life, as today, most families are headed by two working parents.
But women are still carrying the weight of the childcare burden. Survey after survey showed that during the pandemic, women were juggling the bulk of childcare and homeschooling alongside their paid work. It wasn’t news to most of us – it simply shone a spotlight on the reality of the working mother.
While those frenzied months in lockdown are (hopefully) not going to be the norm, they do highlight the importance and benefits of flexible working. Allowing people to work flexibly means they can shape their career around their home life, to the immense benefit of both. Because work/life balance needs to be more than a buzzword.
Enabling mums to rejoin the workforce
There are so many highly skilled mums out there who would be an incredible asset to a business. Sadly, whilst many women are keen to continue earning, they cannot find a job that fits in with their life after having children. These are women who built up their expertise in thriving careers before having kids, and have developed even more transferable skills through parenting.
These mums are an untapped asset. At That Works For Me, we work with businesses to help connect them with this pool of talent. Flexible working suits so many industries and careers – we’ve helped recruit developers, social media managers, account directors, HR specialists, as well as top-level positions across a huge range of industries.
Benefits for employers
For those employers looking to attract premium talent, flexible working is a huge draw. It shows that a firm cares about its workplace culture and the experience its employees have.
We’ve worked with companies of all sizes, from entrepreneurs recruiting for their first role to global organisations such as PwC. They all understand the value of offering flexible roles, and the growing demand for these types of jobs.
Organisations see immense benefits from flexible working, including:
- Improved employee loyalty. People are more likely to stay with a company that values their work/life balance.
- Productivity is boosted, as people can manage all the areas of their life and focus on their job during work hours.
- Companies that use freelance and contract staff can access specialists without having to pay a full-time salary – the project can dictate the money spent on the resource. This kind of flexible talent rarely requires extra office space, so can be very cost effective.
- Employer appeal – offering flexible working helps build a positive reputation as an inclusive employer that really cares about its team, this attracts top talent!
- Drastically widening the pool of potential candidates for a role, helping ensure an organisation finds the best possible candidate.
It’s time for flexible working to be everyone’s reality
Flexible working can transform a parent’s career prospects and unlock a wealth of talent for organisations. It’s an incredibly positive move all-round.
Visit ThatWorksForMe.co.uk to discover flexible roles you can apply for now, or to discover how your business can recruit flexibly for your next role.