Way back when, when I was a cub reporter, it was the done thing to turn up to work before my editor arrived and leave just after they left (I say they, not because I had more than one editor at a time, but I have had both male and female editors and they covers both nicely). I digress… So, I’d rock up at 8.45am and head home around 5.15pm ish.
But times, they are a changing. I no longer subscribe to the set hours routine – not only because childcare arrangements mean it’s not possible, but also because it’s an outdated concept.
As a rule, those who are at their desks 9am to 5pm, five days a week, are no more productive than those who work flexible patterns, take time off when work is slow or work into the small hours when deadlines are looming. It just makes sense. Obviously, work rate varies according to each individual, their role, their ability and their ethics, but the pattern of working has moved on a lot from the traditional nine to fiver – to the benefit of us worker bees and the small businesses or larger organisations we work for.
Do you reply to work emails on the loo?
Today is Flexible Working Awareness Day, flagging up the pros of flexible working. Obviously. But the word flexible is also flexible in its meaning too – this can mean the hours and days we work, how we work – office, home, on the toilet even (my hubby replies to work emails on the loo frequently) – and how we float between work and home life at the touch of an app, scrolling our Facebook feed one minute and chatting with a colleague about deadlines via Messenger the next. And the image I’ve used below gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘flexible worker’ entirely. Ouch.
Research suggests nearly half the UK workforce, to the tune of 14 million people, want to work flexibly to fit around modern life. They key word is modern here, the way we work – made easier (to our benefit or detriment, you decide) by digital technologies.
Work-life boundary blur
The Digital Brain Switch project looks into these very things, the boundaries between work and home life, and how we juggle whose time we’re on. It’s difficult to know exactly how much work stuff I do at home and how much personal stuff I do at work (a phone call to sort a plumber for a leaky boiler, for example). For me, it’s a fair mix and I don’t sweat it it either way. I am, after all, the proud owner of good work ethics and get satisfaction from ‘good, big shit’ at work.
For me, being able to work a flexible pattern means I’m able to contribute more to my place of work – and get more enjoyment out of doing that while fitting that around childcare and other commitments. I work 31 hours per week, so not far off the full-time equivalent of 37.5 hours, but it’s spread over 3.5 days. That’s three days working 8am to 6pm and an 8am to 12pm shift on a Friday, leaving Mondays completely clear for children, washing and all the other things I don’t want to spend my evenings doing.
I’m lucky to be able to do this – in many organisations, such flexibility is still frowned upon, seen as messy, confusing to staff and unproductive.
Where I work, pretty much everyone is working some kind of flexible pattern, even the full-timers with long and short days, every other Monday off etc. It doesn’t confuse us (much) and we still get stuff – a lot of stuff, actually – done.
While there are specific organisations aimed at recruiting parents (mostly mums) into part-time work, flexible or agile working is no longer for parents juggling childcare, it’s for anyone. For those who want to run a second business on the side like my friend Sarah who’s about to open up her own shop in Bridgnorth after upcycling furniture on her ‘agile Mondays’. Another friend uses a day a week for study. My husband, too, is a flexible worker – on a Friday, for example, his eight-hour working day begins when I arrive home at 12.15pm.
And it’s right for me, someone who wants to work full-time (or close to) but is restricted by family life and committed to wanting to be one of the two people largely responsible for raising my kids.
Are you a flexible worker or chained to the 9am to 5pm approach? What would work for you?