When you’re a working parent, there are always hard choices.
In the evening when I collect my 4 year old from after school club and it is gone 6pm before we sit down for dinner and do reading, I know she’s too tired to concentrate and to learn.
When I drop them at breakfast club without their hair brushed and don’t walk all the way down the path because I am already late for an early conference call.
When I am listening to them talk about their day whilst simultaneously cooking dinner and checking my work email.
Hard choices are always there. Being a human is full of hard choices. Today I had to choose between a dinosaur dig or senior management meeting.
As we approached the school, sprog 2.0 in her civvies all ready for day on the school field digging for dinosaur bones, we realised she was the only one without a bucket and spade. I’d skipped past a couple of kids in their uniform who’s mums had forgotten, thanking God that wasn’t me and feeling fairly smuggety smug and accomplished only to realise, she’d be the kid who had to wait her turn and share a spade. Instead of throwing herself into the activity 100%, she’d be the only one without her own bucket. She’s like I was, this kid. These things matter. They’re the shit you remember. The shit you remind your mum of when you’re older.
So I drove round the petrol stations and bought a bucket and spade having left child, eyes brimming, at school for the day and dropped it into school for her. This meant I was late. Late for an important meeting.
I’d usually choose the meeting but today I couldn’t.
Hard choices. But I think I chose right this time.
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Why not? I am sure you’d want a bit more time off, no? Part time hours / three days a week but a role that is still senior, meaningful and client facing? Someone with complimentary skills to bounce ideas off? A team, even though you’re the boss?
Sounds pretty idyllic I think….
Why don’t more people work as jobshares in PR? I mean you see the co-CEO model every now and again but why not other pairings? Have you ever applied for a job as a pair? Have you ever received a pair of CVs for one job?
Part time jobs are so few and far between and flexible part time jobs (i.e. home working) even more so. Surely the best all round is if two people share the job, providing full time cover but allowing flexibility in their timings and their homeworking status.
As a client, I get two brains instead of one (pref a left and a right!). As a junior member, I learn two lots of skills, instead of one. As an agency owner, I have doubled my ideas, my perspectives and my skills whilst keeping my costs the same. As the jobsharer, I get to keep my job, have time with my family, be office based 50% of the time, have cover when I am on holiday and have a partner with skills different to mine to ensure the clients and teams get a kickass service.
Am I missing something?
According to Jack Welch, former CEO GE last week in the WSJ, it is officially dead. However, i think the problems arise when people try to compartmentalise their work and their home lives. Wireless data has meant we can be contacted/stay in touch on the move. Great, whereas once we would have been working til 10pm, we are now sat on the sofa with our partners, watching TV, tweeting with friends and sporadically checking if the email we were waiting for at 6pm has come in yet. What’s changed?
If anything the lines have been blurred but that isn’t a bad thing necessarily as long as you remember to switch off. I had a colleague ask me if I had got the plan they sent me Fri night (I don’t work Fridays) and this was Monday….I hadn’t. I didn’t check email all weekend. I had family down, had a great time and would encourage you to do the same when you can. You’re much more use at work when you are relaxed and refreshed.
I think instead of talking about worklife balance, we need to talk about worklife discipline. Only you can decide if your kid’s sports day is more important than a client meeting…or if your holiday is more important than knowing what is going on in the office 24/7. Prioritisation is an essential skill….and it is a skill that you’ll continually need to hone. If you have kids, it changes. If a parent falls ill, it changes. You get the picture….
People talk about worklife balance as something a company can give you….I believe it is something you must build yourself. The company can provide flexibility but only you know what’s really important each day.
I stumbled across an interesting piece on IT Pro giving 10 reasons for companies to consider introducing a flexible working policy. This is a real interest area of mine, having managed to maintain a senior position in the PR industry whilst raising a family and living outside of London. I have been fortunate to have a very forward thinking employer and clients but many companies still cannot see the benefits of flexible working.
Here’s the list outlined in the ITPro article:
Equality and diversity
The tech is already in place
Government regulations mean you have to
But I would also add a few of my own:
Community benefits – people spend where they live instead of where they work
Working with other offices/Intl clients – people don’t mind the early Asian and the late US conference calls when they are working at home, much easier than trying to get into the office for silly o’clock
Health benefits – it is a lot easier to fit in the run/gym session when you don’t have to negotiate an hour long tube journey or carry your suit in to work – ditto sleep, easier to get the recommended 8 hours a day when your alarm goes off a little later
Staff retention benefits – if workers are allowed to adopt a flexible pattern that fits in around other commitments, they are more likely to be committed to a company and to stay longer. This is a great benefit to clients as IP is not lost due to high turnover but also reduces recruitment/replacement hassles and costs
Any other flexible workers got anything to add?
N.B. Cross posted on Ruder Finn’s blog
Comfy and cosy slippers from a fab Cornish company. I highly recommend adding them to your Christmas list this year.