A Parent’s Guide to Flexible Working
What is flexible working and does it really help?
From working parents juggling the school runs to millennials no longer willing to adhere to a 9-5 life, there are many reasons that flexibility has become a desired component of the workplace.
Here is a quick guide to the ups and downs of flexible working:
What is flexible working?
Flexible working allows employees to adjust their working hours, where they work from and for how long they work. In the UK, all employees are legally allowed to request flexible working. However, there are certain business factors that allow employers to determine whether an employee’s role is suitable for flexible work. An employer can reject an application for flexible working for any of the following reasons:
- Will incur extra business costs
- Affect the quality and performance of the work
- The work cannot be delegated among other staff
- Hinders ability to meet customer demand
- Not enough work during the suggested working hours
- There are changes to the workforce
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What are the advantages?
- Spend more time with your family
One of the greatest barriers for parents spending time with their children and families is working away from the home. Flexible working and working from home offers parents the opportunity to be there for lunches, do the school runs and get home earlier in the evenings.
- Saves money
There are many ways in which flexible working will save you money. You no longer have to shell out for the work commute, be it petrol costs or train tickets. You will save money on work clothes as the trips into the office become less frequent – although, it is important not to stay in your pyjamas all day as this can foster an unproductive mindset and set a bad example for your children.
You may also find yourself saving money on things like eating out and take away coffees.
- No commute
As many people spend at least an hour a day commuting, this time can be put towards productive uses such as family obligations, exercise or extra time for work.
And, as we already mentioned, working from home is a great money-saver as it cuts out the daily commute.
What are the disadvantages?
- Lack of sociability
For many people being around others is an important part of their work day. If you like face-to-face interactions, working remotely might be a lonely experience.
- False assumptions
Some people, if they cannot actively see you, will presume you are not giving your full attention to work. This can be counteracted by meeting and exceeding targets and goals. However, some do experience an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality and worry that not being in the office has cost them promotions and other career advancements.
Working from home, especially if kids are around, requires a lot of self-discipline. If you are in your office or designated workspace, it can be difficult to ignore a crying child or one who is trying to get your attention. Everyone in your household must know when they can and cannot talk to you and it is up to you not to give in to distractions.
What impact does flexible working have?
According to a recent survey by Care.com, a large majority of parents find flexible working to be positive. When parents who avail of flexible work were asked if being able to work from home positively affected their work-life balance, 79% of men said yes while 78% of women found it had a positive impact.
However, despite the work-life balance benefits, there is still a fear among parents that asking for flexible work could harm their career progression.
A recent survey by Workingmums.co.uk found that despite the demand for flexible working, many mums found that it had a negative impact on their careers:
- 42% said their flexible working is not viewed positively by colleagues
- 49% say flexible working has held them back in their career
- 54% of part-time workers said that they miss out on career progression opportunities
However, this is not always the case. When asked if flexible working had hindered her career progression, Care.com family expert Katrin Lewandowski, reported only positive experiences. “I was offered a lot of valuable positions during my career, especially during the period I worked as a freelancer. Most of them I declined. For me family comes first and that is why I love my current job at Care.com because family values are highly respected there.”
Demand for fathers
The Workingmums.co.uk survey highlights that while there is an urgent need for more flexibility among fathers, there are old-fashioned policies and fears that prevent dads from asking for it. According to the survey, 73% of men are considering seeking flexible work but 72% fear their employer’s reaction if they do.
Lewandowski has some advice for parents about this too: “Whenever there have appeared any hurdles in bringing work and private life in line, I openly talked to my boss and we figured out a solution. That is what I absolutely would recommend to everyone. Do not clench your teeth and wait too long. This weakens your mood, and finally your position.”