Do you work flexibly? Or do you wish you could?
If you’ve been employed by the same employer (in the UK) for 26 weeks you can request flexible working. This doesn’t mean that you will get it, but you have the right to ask and if you are turned down, the company has to justify it.
But we don’t all ask, and we don’t all consider it.
So, what’s stopping you? Maybe busting some myths will help.
Myth # 1 Flexible working is all about work life balance.
The problem with dividing work and life is that we think of work as ‘not life’. Work becomes a thing to ‘get out of the way’ or merely a means to an end. Working in Sustainability is not like that. For many people it’s a way of life but that doesn’t mean you need to work all hours for your employer. I prefer to think of it as ‘Life Balance’.
– Ask yourself: Am I fulfilled in my life? Am I living according to my values? Do I have the right amount of time for the different things which are important to me?
Myth # 2 Flexible working is for people with young children or other family members who need support
The problem with this is that you may feel you have to justify working flexibly. But you might want to work at home some days, so you can go for a run at lunchtime or reduce your commuting hours and expense. You might want to work part-time so you have more time for charity work or to develop a particular interest. I first went down to 4 days a week when I moved to a job which was more highly paid so I earned the same amount as my previous job but in fewer hours.
– Ask yourself: Do I have a passion or an interest I want to follow but can’t because of my restrictive work pattern?
Myth # 3 It’s risky to choose flexible working because you might find it’s not for you and feel stuck.
It’s important to be clear on your ‘why?’ – not only why you might want to work flexibly but your bigger purpose, your values, your drivers. Coaching can help you get clarity by addressing the questions you may not have thought of or are subconsciously avoiding. It can help you get in touch with your emotions as well as your logical brain. This reduces the risk, but at the end of the day, if you change your mind, your employer may be able to agree you can change back or you may need to seek another job.
Myth # 4 Flexible working is only beneficial for the employee
Employers are increasingly reporting that flexible working means they have a happier workforce with higher retention rates and, if it involves staff working at home, it can reduce office costs.
– Ask yourself: How could it benefit my employer if I, or my colleagues, chose to work flexibly?
We’re going to be addressing these myths and all your questions around ‘Life Balance’ and ‘Flexible working’ at our Women in Sustainability Oxford event on 5th June with stories from 2 women with very different careers (Alex Hetherington and Jenny Ekelund) and a specialist in flexible working, Helen Wright. Find out more here.
Article by Thalia Carr, Coach and Women in Sustainability Oxford Hub Lead