And perhaps quicker than we might have imagined only a couple months ago. Now more than ever we are feeling the challenges of working remotely and fitting work in around personal and family commitments. Andrienne Muir, COO at VoxSmart shares her experience with flexible working throughout her career and why it's so important for us as a company.
Being a full time working mother, time and time again I reflect on my own childhood, and thankfully I have very fond memories of growing up in New Zealand with great friends, a loving supportive family and (what I now know, was unprecedented) access to my mum and dad throughout my early years.
In those days, having a mum around before and after school was a given, however having a dad around to attend school trips, take me to school in the morning, be around for school pick up and attend sports days was unheard of, most of my friends had dads bound to the 9-5 desk job with no flexibility.
My father was a police officer, who in the early years of my life was on shift work as a Detective in Wellington. We often had dad home for our school holidays, and due to shift work, he was often home and had time to help with homework, answer my 101 questions around maths (not my strength, nor my mother’s) and help me navigate friendships during tricky afterschool playdates as a young girl.
His love of his job ran though his blood. We knew his work was important, but equally we also knew how we also were able to have fantastic quality time with dad and mum which galvanised us as a family. Don’t get me wrong, he did miss out on a number of key moments (my graduation for one), as he often worked weekends or was working a long enquiry taking him out of home for weeks at a time. But with those hard hours, came the ability to have large chunks of time off.
The access to both parents as a young child has without a doubt shaped me into who I am today. It has also set the tone as to how I want my kids to have as they grow. Like me, I had a working mother and my children understand that “mum works” and it’s a part of who I am and what I love. I do love working and what I do and I have chosen a role and company that respects and understands my need for flexibility to also be available and present for my kids.
Companies are recognising to value trust and openness
It’s not lost on me how fortunate I am to have the best of both worlds since I had my daughter 7 years ago. While I am working Monday to Friday, my hours alter to accommodate school drop off and pick up and school holidays. I respect that not everyone can have that flexibility; however, Companies are recognising that trust and openness is a value we all should install into our company culture, and those that are getting this right have better performance, happier staff and reduced turnover.
It’s so important that CEO’s and managers understand that supporting their staff and understanding their individual needs is more than just managing their performance. It’s about supporting well-being at work and respecting that there may be a need for flexibility. At my work currently, the ability to request for flexible working is open to everyone (as set out in the Employment rights act 1996). The people that do work flexibly are just as productive than anyone working 9-5. We have people working 7-3 or 10-6 and that’s to accommodate travel times, sport commitments, and childcare to name a few.
Flexibility has hidden costs
From a personal perspective, having flexibility comes at a cost. Its hard work. I won’t lie. Your hours at work reduce at one end but are substituted at the other. Your leave work at 3, only to get to homework, bath, books and bed – to then log on again at the end of the day.
My flexibility and working full time with young kids is great, but I have missed the first step and first words. Those moments are tough to miss, but the ones I am around for are the ones I love, and I try to focus on. I have a fantastic husband who supports our “team”, a great work environment that challenges me and respects my need for flexibility and kids that love me no matter what. I am very lucky, and I know that.
* Under provisions set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and regulations made under it, all employees have a statutory right to ask their employer for a change to their contractual terms and conditions of employment to work flexibly provided they have worked for their employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date the application is made. An employee can only make one statutory request in any 12 month period.