Next Wednesday is Flexible Working Day. As a supporting publication, we’re running a number of stories about flexible working in the lead up to the event. Below Flexible Working Day founder Vanessa Vanderhoek shares her story and why she founded the day.
If you’d like to share more on how you work flexibly (even just a pic of what you do), you can do so by getting in contact.
There I was. A Newborn Mum, with over 10 years of executive experience, a baby at home, venturing back out into the (paid) working world. My first big work gig since working non-stop in my non-paid, 24-7 role as Mum.
Having not slept more than a two-hour stretch since my daughter was born, I was beyond exhausted. Whist thrilled to be doing something intellectual, I was also quietly petrified and lacking confidence. That imposter voice was strong, “Are you doing the right thing leaving your baby? What would these people learn from you? Did you still have what it takes to be a good trainer and coach?”.
I was going to work for two hours. Two hours of uninterrupted time to ensure my class full of eager clients were able to absorb all the material I had pre-prepared during the spare seconds I had between feeding, cleaning, feeding, nappy changes, entertaining, did I mention feeding and nappy changes…?
And of course, murphy’s law prevailed and the nanny I had so meticulously planned to look after my Allergic-To-Sleep-Never-Stops-Moving-Mini-Me bailed at the last second.
So, I called my husband to tell him I was dropping off Never-Stops, packed snacks, toys, nappies and change gear, bundled in all my notes and materials, ensured the food stains were well hidden so I at least looked the part, drove an extra 10 kilometres – all so I could have two hours to give my all to my job.
Mums working flexibly are a highly productive and under-tapped resource. As a mum working flexibly I know this. And it is a fact according to a 2015 Ernst & Young research paper. We mothers are juggling artists. Able to coordinate everyone else to jump tall buildings in one single bound. And on limited sleep!
Let’s be honest. Once you have kids, it’s not the easiest to jump back into your career as before. Even if you do work fulltime, you don’t have the luxury of staying late to finish an ‘urgent’ task, socialising with the big wigs, or never taking a sick day. Most mums I know take all their entitled sick days – because kids are germ factories with no immune system that love to lick everything and everyone.
We Most Productive Beings need flexibility! To produce the amazing work we do, at times and locations that work for us. Because we need to pick the kids up from child care and school. We need to spend time together, but we also need to spend time using our working brains and pretending to hold adult conversations, while trying to remember when that dental appointment was for. For our own well-being. We’re not just mums. We’re adult beings. It’s about creating a holistic family-working relationship with only 3.2 hours available (or so it feels!).
But to limit flexible work to just working mums isn’t the solution either. The modern family of today looks completely different to 50, 20 years or even a generation ago. I myself am a step-mum to two fabulous pre-tweens. Our family life requires flexible working arrangements for both myself and my husband. We are a team who value each other’s career aspirations and family time.
Did you know that 79 per cent of new dads want to work flexibly? But 85 per cent with kids under five work fulltime? That’s compared to the 80 per cent of mothers who want to work flexibly but only 19 per cent work fulltime.
And we haven’t even mentioned those who care for loved ones with a disability or elderly parents. Or those seeking to move out of their current socio-economic status by working and studying. Or people suffering from mental illness. The reality is – by forcing a set working mould on the culturally, economically, sexually, racially and simply diverse society we live in is hindering us all. We need to re-think the 9-5 workday and shift the focus from face time to productivity.
Flex work, full life
Right now, I can hear what you’re thinking ‘Vanessa, I know all this! You don’t need to convince me!’. But actually, I do. Because, we all have rights. You have the right to request flexible working arrangements. And I want to give you the confidence and the know-how to ask for flexible working conditions.
I am proud to be hosting the first national Flexible Working Day on Wednesday 21 June 2017. The theme for the day is Flexibility at Work Benefits Everyone, with the aim to increase awareness of the benefits of flexible work and to encourage people, managers and staff alike, to take action to implement flexibility in their workplaces.
Let’s celebrate flexible work
So how can you get involved?
- An energised and fun social media campaign will help gain momentum and supporters for the day. We’d love for to hear your stories too. Join in with #FlexWorkFullLife and #FWDay2017.
- Visit the Flexible Working Day 2017 website to access lots of useful information and support to help you work flexibly.
- Download the free FlexAbility Kit with tools and tips for both managers and employees.
Vanessa Vanderhoek is the brainchild behind Flexible Working Day and founder of Career Inside Track.