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.
Licensed under creative COmmons from LydiaShiningBrightly
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 GetWorkSimple, the majority of employers now accept that teleworkers are more productive than their office based colleagues. With rising costs of travel and increased focus on the bottom line, many companies too are adopting a much more progressive approach to working policies as way to increase productivity and reduce office related costs.
Great news for non-london based PR types and even better news for working parents.
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
Had a lovely breakfast the other morning with my pal and ex-colleague, Stephen Waddington who, like me, has recently opted for the co-location lifestyle and moved to the wilds of Northumberland. He is continuing to run Rainier PR with Steve Earl in London.
Unsurprisingly, a large part of the conversation was about flexible/remote/home working with both of us comparing notes about the benefits and pitfalls of being out of (and indeed in) the office.
Anyway, I had been meaning to start something about the traits you need to be a good homeworker and make this strategy work for you in the long term so thanks to Stephen for giving me the renewed focus and here goes……
5 must haves for flexible workers
Respect from clients and staff about working practices – it has to be part of the fabric of the agency….jibes about working from home or trying to cover up flexible work arrangements to clients is a strategy bound for failure – be proud of your agency’s attitude; don’t try to cover it up – people want to work for an agency that embraces and encourages flexible working, not one that merely tolerates it
A flexible attitude – there are times when you just have to be at a meeting in person or in the office. Regular office visits are good for team and individual anyway as they keep you in touch and provide a chance to catch up in person
The right skills – namely, talent, experience and focus. Flexible working does not work in all cases, people need to be integrated into the agency and spend a period of time getting to know staff, clients and the agency’s culture, in order to work in the expected way.
Individuals need to take responsibility for networking and socialising either where they live or making an effort to attend company socials. The increase of social media and networks has made it much easier for home workers to stay in touch, do business out of hours, attend events/lectures through podcasts and keep up to date with the industry
Trust. Your work needs to speak for itself. Clients need to want to work with you, teams need to feel they can approach you and respect the way you work and your boss needs to trust you.
I am going to tag some other people in the PR industry to see if they have any thoughts to add. Over to you Stephen, David, Will, Jonathan, Ged and Paul.