Flexible working works for everyone

eco-summerFor working mums juggling everything is clearly a huge issue. A recent survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation in the UK found that 42% of women were not happy with the balance between their work and home life (their words not mine).

Another survey carried out by My Family Care showed that 60% of parents were not happy with their work life balance. In that survey, it was clear that one thing that would have helped the respondents was some flexibility from their employers. Sadly, 54% of the respondents were afraid to ask for more flexibility. They felt that doing so would have a negative impact on their career prospects.

Fortunately, not all employers are against providing their workers with the chance to work flexibility. In fact, there are firms out there that are realising that providing their employees with the chance to work flexibly means a less stressed and, therefore, more productive workforce.

A great example of this approach is AlldayPA. This, UK based, firm specialises in providing a complete telephone answering service for businesses.

Earlier this year the firm’s chief executive Reuben Singh announced the launch of the scheme, but a lot of work went in before that. This is because rather than simply launch a benefits package that the management team felt was appropriate they took the unusual approach of asking their employees what they wanted included. The management team wanted the AlldayPA staff to choose the benefits scheme that worked well for them as well as one that would benefit the firm.

High on the staff’s list of desired benefits was flexible work hours, so that was included in the deal as well as a generous bonus scheme and cash incentives tied to the quality of call handling. The firm needs a happy, motivated staff, which Mr Singh says ‘is the number one driver of customer satisfaction.’

If you are looking for work choosing a firm that already offers flexible working makes a lot of sense. You know you will not be tied to the 9 to 5 schedule, which rarely fits in with most people’s family obligations.

Of course, there are limitations to how flexible the firm can be. Most companies still require their employees to be in the office during a set of core hours.

They expect the school run and doctor’s appointments to be made outside of those core hours whenever possible. Some firms require all workers to complete a full 8-hour shift every day, but allow their employees to decide what time they start that shift.

Others are even more flexible they may ask you to work a minimum number of hours each day. Usually, if you work more hours than your allocated shift allow you to carry that time forward and take a morning or a day off later in the week or month. The best flexible work contracts allow you to work at home on a regular basis, as well as choose how long you are in the office on most days.

If you are lucky enough to land a job where flexible working is on offer be careful to follow the rules of the scheme. It is important for the workforce to be prepared to flex up and do extra hours when the firm needs them to.

Flexible working: your chance to have your say

The Government is looking at the right of parents to request flexible working to help balance their work and family commitments.  And it would like your opinion.

The Department for Business Innovations & Skills is right now exploring proposals for the design of a more flexible system of parental leave, including how best to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.

Speaking at an event on contemporary parenting, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Right now, most parents simply do not have flexibility they need. Despite the fact fathers can request flexible working, many feel reluctant to do so. There is still a stigma attached.”

According to Business Secretary Vince Cable, the Government will consult fully with small businesses on how best to proceed. “We are conscious of the concerns of some companies, particularly SMEs – but I hope they will embrace our plans,” he said.

In this day and age, flexible working cannot simply mean working from home or the office.  For parents especially, the skill of juggling work, childcare and home life is a tough one.  Hours wasted commuting to work can leave parents crippled with guilt and rushing out of the office at the first opportunity.

Things are changing, but there’s a long way to go. Third Door, the work hub with integral nursery in Wandsworth, London, has just celebrated its first birthday. Technology means that you can now work from pretty much anywhere you like – home, a work hub or even Starbucks. Yet our roads are still clogged by commuters and the expectation is still that we’ll be in an office from nine to five-thirty every weekday. Or even longer.

It’s time for a change.

Have your say by filling in this short government survey below…

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/83VC8K2

photo credit: [nohide]it’s a foot![/nohide]

One Day…

This post was prompted by the Writing Workshop on the Sleep Is For The Weak blog.

One day parents will really be able to balance working with spending time with their children.

One day there will be a part time job for anyone who wants one. Jobs which make full use of mums’ (lets face it it’s usually the mum) skills, expertise and training. Jobs with an equal status to full time jobs and that pay the same rate per hour.

One day schools will teach kids how to be their own bosses so they will know there is more to working life than the employment career ladder. Lets give kids more flexible work options and prove that running your own business isn’t just for hard boiled macho blokes in suits.

One day companies will make full use of not-so-new-anymore technologies so that more of use can work remotely. Then we’ll be able to work more flexibly and our work will have less impact on the environment (less travel, less fuel).

One day childcare won’t be so outrageously expensive that a parent with two or more pre-schoolers can’t afford to work.

One day the media will stop flogging the tired ‘old working mum vs stay at home mum’ debate. It isn’t a straightforward choice between one and the other, many of us juggle both options  and we change the way we work (or don’t work) as our children get older. We don’t sit around arguing about which is best – we just get on with what works for our family. And we support each other in our choices.

One day women will refuse to compromise either their career or their family time and will start their own businesses so they can do both. Hang on, that’s already happening!

Do you have any more? Post me a comment…

How To Get A Stay-At-Home Job

Many of us start businesses because we can’t find home-based jobs that fit around out families. If this is you, then you’ll want to take a look at hiremyparents.com, which launches this week.

After the launch you’ll have four days to claim your free membership, so keep an eye on hiremyparents.com this week.

If you’ve trained, studied and worked for years to become an expert in your field then why, when kids come along, would you want to sell perfume online; or start cold-calling for an energy supplier. Why can’t you do what you do but from home?

Hiremyparents was created to solve this problem. An association where members can browse for full time, part time, casual, job share, temp/contract, freelance and stay at home jobs, along with home based business and self employment opportunities posted by businesses from around the world.

A job board that gives its members a chance to make money using the skills they attained prior to kids and fulfil the desire to stay at home.

Business Ideas For Mums

(This post was last updated on 9 June 2011 – see note at the bottom)

I’m writing articles (like this one) that aim to give you a snapshot of a business idea. This is exactly what I wanted when I was on my first maternity leave, but couldn’t find. I had an idea that I could run a business around my family, but no idea what I could actually do or how it might work.

This is going to take me a while to complete, so in the meantime I thought a list of businesses that you could run as a mum would be useful. I’ll link each idea to the posts as I write them.

Bookkeeper – In the book Start a Family Friendly Business

Web Designer

Graphic Designer – In the book Start a Family Friendly Business

Writer

Business coach

Public Relations

Virtual Assistant

Marketing Consultant

Interior Designer

Private Tutor

Personal Trainer

Childminder

Personal/Life Coach

Running a Pre-School Group

Running Children’s Parties

Running an Information Website (blogging, directory, membership site, information products)

Running an Online Shop

Proof Reader

Journalist – In the book Start a Family Friendly Business

Ironing, Dog walking, Cleaning, Gardening, Pet Sitting, services around the home

Babysitting Agency

Equipment Hire (buggies, baby equipment that parents can hire when they arrive at their destination)

Wedding/Event Planner

Photographer

Travel Agent

Running a Community Magazine

Direct Selling and Party Plans

Selling on eBay

Developing and Selling a New Product – In the book Start a Family Friendly Business

Making and selling crafts etc – see Turn your creative skill into a business

Holistic/Complementary or Sport Therapist

Beauty Therapist

Antenatal teacher or therapist (also Doula)

Update: 9 June 2011

This post was the seed that grew into the book Start a Family Friendly Business! Some of these posts became part of the book and my co-author Antonia Chitty added many more of her own. I’ve also added links to articles that were posted here on Business Plus Baby after the book was published.