Becoming a parent is one of the most life-changing events and person can encounter. Alongside the heady love that runs so deep it almost knocks you sideways and the unrivalled joy of watching a small human (that you created) grow into a person, comes a set of life-changes and logistical challenges that can, at times, feel extremely hard to navigate. And for parents who choose to pursue a career alongside their roles as Head of Pram Operations/Snot Wiping Manager/Chief Nappy Officer, these challenges can be debilitating.
At the core of most issues that working parents face is time. Whether their kids are in childcare, school or at home, meeting their ever-changing needs can make it extremely difficult to simultaneously keep up with the responsibilities and time-demands of a job. Full time parents may only be able to work when their kids are in bed (for many this means before 7am and after 8pm), school holidays may be causing a logistical nightmare or it may be that the only available nursery requires a 3pm pick-up.
Inflexible work set-ups combined with the cost of childcare have left parents in a range of impossible situations: having to give up a career they spent their whole adult lives building, working full time to take home a mere £14/day once childcare is paid for or only seeing their children on the weekend.
Something has to give.
If there is one thing a working parent needs (aside from an unbroken night’s sleep!) it is flexibility; having greater control over when and where they work can be a lifeline that makes their career a viable possibility. This could involve working a 4-day week, working from home or working outside the traditional 9am-6pm hours.
Whatever form flexible working takes, the first step towards making it possible is a shift in perspective. Flexible working has for a long time been seen as synonymous with a reduction in productivity when, in reality, the opposite is true. Employers fear relinquishing control and that flex initiatives might ‘open up a can of worms’ that sees their whole team coming in and out of the office as they wish. But putting some simple measures in place will ensure that both employee and employer will reap the numerous rewards that flexible working can bring:
‘The 3 C’s’: Top Tips for Making it Work
1. Clarity – employees must be open and clear about the challenges they are facing and what practical steps would alleviate some pressure.
2. Consistency – create a plan and stick to it – this way both employer and employee know what to expect and can plan accordingly.
3. Communication – keep an open dialogue about what’s working and what isn’t – don’t be afraid to make changes where necessary.
To find out more about regulations and guidelines around flexible working, the following resources may come in handy:
Mother Pukka’s guide to requesting flexible working: http://motherpukka.co.uk/blog/get-flexible-working