Is Flexible Working The Key To A Happy Work/Life Balance?
By Nadia Thompson
Returning to work after having children can be a daunting experience, particularly if you’ve taken more than a year out.
For many, it can feel like an insurmountable task.
The practicalities alone can be terrifying – how would the school run work, could you get the extra days at nursery, and what about all those classes you signed up for – never mind finding the job itself.
Some parents worry they have been out for so long that their experience is no longer relevant; some worry they’ll have to take a steep drop in seniority or they just won’t be paid enough to make it worth it.
For others, the key concern is around whether or not they really could go back to an industry that had them working into the wee hours of the night when little Timmy still isn’t sleeping through.
Enter flexible working.
So what is flexible working? In theory, flexible working allows you to break free of the rigid ‘nine to five’, five days a week in the office and instead claw back a better work life balance.
Each role out there has a different definition of flexible working but it usually means the job is flexible to some degree on:
Time – for example, operating under compressed hours (work 5 days in 4) or juggle your hours to fit in with pick-ups/drop offs;
Days – for example, working 3 days a week or sharing the full time role using a job share arrangement; and/or
Location – for example, working from home.
Decent flexible working options once resembled gold dust but perceptions in the U.K. are changing, albeit slowly.
More and more companies are starting to see the benefit of hiring flexible workers from the outset, not just converting them internally.
In support of the first National Flexible Working Day on September 12 2018, here is a roundup of how to hunt down a flexible working option that works for you.
Talk To Your Old Team
This one sounds like an obvious place to start, but many of us dismiss this option out of hand. Do not undervalue your knowledge of how a particular company works, even if that knowledge is a couple of years old.
Assuming you left on good terms and actually want to return, it’s always worth talking to your manager or key stakeholders you worked with previously to see what’s available.
The worse they can say is no; ultimately you have lost nothing by having the conversation.
Find The Right Job Boards
Attempting to squirrel out a flexible job that doesn’t pay peanuts and is one you might actually want to do is nigh on impossible through many of the usual job boards.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of websites that cater specifically to either flexible working or parents looking to get back into work after a long break.
Some of our favourite tailored job boards and flexible recruiters are:
Started by a mum looking for flexible working arrangements, catering to a broad range of job types and seniorities.
Tailored recruitment. Focussed on placing candidates in jobs that fit school hours.
More your conventional job board, this site focusses on the needs of working parents.
2 to 3 days
Recruitment company focussed on flexible working – free for mothers to join.
Mumsnet has a well-stocked jobs board including a wide range of flexible working opportunities.
Connect Over Social Media
There are a number of social media sites that have set up groups devoted to helping parents look for flexible working arrangements.
Depending on your particular set of skills, trawling through these sites can mirror looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, but if nothing else, they offer a sense of camaraderie in what often feels like a lonely, uphill struggle to get back to the workplace.
They usually have ‘flexible working’ in the title so a quick search on your preferred outlet will bring up a whole host of options.
“Flexible Working For Mums Like Me (Dads Welcome!)” is a good place to start – a Facebook group set up specifically to connect flexible companies with potential employees looking for flexible working arrangements. I
t boasts a large number of success stories and members who have benefited from it regularly return to try to help out newbies.
A good number of companies post vacancies from various sectors and across seniority levels – though beware repeated posts about Usborne Book Sellers.
Refresh Your Skills With a Returnship
A number of companies, including big industry names such as J.P. Morgan, Deloitte and O2, have recently begun to offer returnships.
The U.S. phenomenon hit the U.K. in 2014. Its aim is to help experienced professionals get back in the saddle after significant time out (usually at least two years, although some companies such as Santander will take you after just one).
A returnship is basically a more senior internship aimed at someone who has been out of the workplace for a while but has experience in the sector they are looking to return to.
They tend to last between three and six months with the possibility of a permanent role at the end (although like internships, this placement is performance based and not guaranteed).
It’s worth noting that very few of the returnships are offered part time, though all the companies offering them do promote flexible working.
Women Returners maintains an up to date list of the major returnships available.
Although they are still few and far between, there are networking events out there for mothers looking to re-enter the workplace.
Eventbrite is a cornucopia of upcoming activities, including the annual Mums Enterprise Roadshow held at Olympia London in February 2019. It showcases a number of companies with flexible working options and is free to register.
Get yourself in the zone for events like these by utilising free CV surgeries (such as City CV’s October offering and checking out career webinars focussed on returners.
It can be hard to find the same buzz of excitement for your old role, even if flexible working is on the table.
You might find your mindset and priorities have changed whilst you’ve been out of the rat race or maybe you simply can’t find the right flexible role that ticks all your boxes.
Perhaps what you need is a completely different direction.
When polled on Twitter about their experiences attempting to return to work flexibly, over 50% of parents said they ultimately decided to set up their own company.
If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our new series on How to Start Your Own Online Business.
For full details on your flexible working rights, visit www.gov.uk/flexible-working.
If you know of any useful flexible working groups, networks or upcoming events that you would like to share, please do comment below.
Or perhaps it’s time to take the leap into entrepreneurship and start working for yourself!
If you’ve got a hobby or a passion project that you’d like to turn into a full time job, check out our new book – Passion To Profit: A Guide To Your First Week Of Running A Lifestyle Business – where you’ll learn everything you need to know to launch, develop and grow your own successful lifestyle business.