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Careers Working Culture

What Elements Make Up Toxic Working Culture?

Last month the topic of discussion was Working From Home and I said it was a phrase used so often that the original meaning is sometimes lost. But another phrase often used, especially in the last couple of weeks is Toxic Working Culture or Environment.

I have often heard this used when people explain why they hate or left their job; “It was a toxic working environment and I need/had to get out”. But what constitutes a toxic working culture?

I posted polls on LinkedIn and Facebook. Over 120 people voiced what elements they believes make a working culture toxic.

There was a definite pattern and the results may come as surprise, especially to businesses. But I think employers should also look very closely, as what they think employees consider is a toxic environment may not be the case.

Micromanagement; the Number One Element of Toxic Working Cultures

I’m not surprised people considered this to be a toxic working trait of a workplace. Initially though, I was perhaps a little surprised at just how many people considered it to be the main element of toxic workplace culture.

Almost a third of the people who voted (31.4%) said that they felt that micromanagement is the largest contributor to making a working environment truly toxic.

It makes perfect sense; micromanagement oozes toxicity. Because it demonstrates one of the most de-motivating things an employer can show; a complete lack of trust.

What is micromanagement? It refers to a superior who will constantly seek to oversee, control and direct every aspect of your work from tasks important to minute.

In other words they don’t trust you to do the job correctly, or at the very least don’t trust you to do it as well as they can.

Of course this can come in all shapes and sizes. Constantly checking on you, giving direction on a task you have performed numerous times, strictly regimenting and monitoring your day, breaks, lunch etc. But it all comes down to trust.

And what person feels valued, motivated and confident in their job when you know that your not trusted by the higher ups? This is made worse when you know the person responsible has no business micromanaging aspects of your work they themselves don’t know

This happens far too often and to put it simply; we as employees don’t need that rubbish. You have employed us to do a job, now trust us to get on with it unless there are serious causes to do otherwise.

The alternative is businesses lose good talent. Who could have added so much more value to the company if they had been trusted to do their job.

Management Politics

I hadn’t originally intended to have Management Politics as an option on the poll. Simply because it didn’t spring to mind.

Until I was doing some market research on some businesses on glassdoor. I found that for a couple of businesses Management Politics was a big source for negative critique and was even the cause many former-employees listed their reason for leaving.

It had the second highest votes with 22.3% voting it as a main element of a toxic workplace. Which was quite the considerable number.

What is management politics? In this sense it is used to describe managers putting their own professional or personal agenda over the actual work/team.

For example a manager may wish to gain favour with their superiors by showcasing cost efficiency. The result of this could be a refusal to take on more staff that are severely needed and over-tasking a skeleton team. Another example could be blaming another colleague or department for their own mistakes to avoid reprimand.

But like with micromanagement, management politics can come in all shapes and sizes, but why does this create a toxic working environment?

That can also be a number of reasons, for one; as an employee I want to come to work to do my job, not to be used in a politicking chess match. It is also incredibly de-motivating when a manager puts themselves before their team.

Talk about the original meaning being lost; a manager is meant to be a leader, ensure the team is giving their best performance. That includes taking responsibility for when things go wrong. Standing up to customers and even upper management if their team are treated unfairly.

Inappropriate Behaviour (Sexism, Bullying, Racism etc.)

19% of voters said that inappropriate behaviour is the main element of a toxic working environment.

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia etc. all of it can sadly take place in the workplace. The range of this is massive; it can be anything from full on harassment in these areas to feeding into stereotypes.

The battle is ongoing to eradicate this from not only workplace culture but from society in general. Sadly we see stories where people still feel these behaviours exist and effect their careers.

Some of this can be attributed to unconscious bias or ignorance. While some of it may be more deliberate and underhanded.

Bullying is a highly toxic trait in workplace culture and this still goes on. Let’s not beat around the bush, sometimes, people take a disliking to each other for one reason or another. The results of this are often never good.

Bullying could come from a person with authority, singling a colleague out. Giving them more than their fair share of work, coming down harder on them than other team members or even showing appreciation to everyone else but them.

Cliques also form in the workplace and these seldom lead to anything good. They can also lead to bullying if a number of people decide a fellow colleague is not to their liking.

It can honestly feel like your back in highschool when this type of bullying takes place and it can often go unnoticed. This is especially the case when members of management are part of said clique.

Then the members can feel as though they have a certain level amnesty and can get away with inappropriate behaviour towards others.

Blatant Favourtism

It could be argued that this is a form of management politics, but I do believe it is separate to that. When discussing bullying, I had mentioned that sometimes people take a dislike to each other, the opposite is also true.

How does the old cliche go? It’s not what you know it’s who you know. I never realised before the negative implications behind that saying. But there is certainly truth to it and is it a toxic trait within the workplace?

9% of voters believe it to be a toxic element and I can agree with them on that. Favourtism is never a good thing and going back to clique conversation, even if it doesn’t lead to bullying it can lead to favourtism.

Why is that toxic? Because this can often result in people getting opportunities simply because the manager happens to like them. Whereas staff more deserving off these opportunities, the people who have the talent and work themselves hard, get overlooked.

The reason this toxic is because it builds up a culture of not how hard you work but who you cosy up to. And that is not environment in which talent can thrive. It also doesn’t say much for management that operates in this way either.

Other Toxic Workplace Elements

The above elements are the ones that were the most voted for. However there were several other elements the people believe contribute to a toxic working environment.

Some of the other elements people voted for included; overloading staff with work, blame culture, expected to work any and all shifts put to them. Some of these are aspects of traits already discussed, although they also stand alone.

Overloading Staff with Work

This refers to the extreme of staff expected to take on more work than can be coped with.

This can come from taking on more work due to a lack of staff. Or taking on work that is beyond their job description and even their skill level.

It’s worse if there’s pressure on staff to try and get too much work done within an impossible time-scale.

This pressure can have an effect on staff morale and effect employees mental health. At that point it becomes a toxic working environment.

Blame Culture

Colleagues throwing each other under the bus when things go wrong. Everyone looking out for themselves rather than working together as a team.

This was touched upon within management politics. Although managers blaming their team is certainly part of it, blame culture refers to everyone across the board.

This creates an environment without trust. A backstabbing culture. There would be no motivation or loyalty in a place like that.

Expected to Work Any and All Shifts

There are still businesses out there who expect staff to be “fully flexible”. Or expect you to “work to the needs of the business”.

That’s code for; your life outside of work is irrelevant to us, you will work however we decide, don’t like it? There’s the door.

I’ve lost count of how many times in my previous employment I was told that anytime anyone took issue with a shift. It’s one step removed from zero hour contracts.

So it is understandable why this could be considered an element of a toxic working environment.

How to Change a Toxic Working Culture

When it comes to eradicating a toxic working culture, the only way to really change things is to treat the root cause.

Often that root cause is a lack of self-awareness, unconscious bias or even ignorance on the part of the employer. They may not even know they have a working culture that is toxic.

However, there are telling signs; high attrition rates, staff feedback, low productivity etc. This signals there is a problem even if an employer doesn’t know exactly what is causing it.

In any case, it’s up to businesses to reach out to consultants. Or take notice when a business is reaching out to them due to these issues.

Categories
Careers Flexible Working Future of work

Working From Home: Are Employers Biased About It?

The term Working From Home or WFH, has been used a lot in post-lockdown times. Maybe too much? What I mean is; when a phrase or title is used so often, we can forget it’s literal core meaning.

Because of that, Working From Home has been a talking point as of late. And it is always referred to as a form of flexible working, which it is. But how flexible is it really?

Honestly, there are variables which mean that this question has a number of different answers and there inlies the problem. There is no solid answer to that question and yet there seems to be bias about the flexibility and freedom Working From Home offers.

What is the bias against people who Work From Home?

This all started when I saw a post on LinkedIn. A woman was calling out her husband’s employer for questioning why he needed a shift change to perform parenting duties. When his wife Works From Home…

This alone shocked me. But what shocked me more was the number of people commenting who related to this story. Which led me to question if there was a bias from employers about employees who Work From Home. I set a poll asking this question on LinkedIn and Facebook and 80 people responded.

Only 2.5% said they believed there was no bias against people Working From Home and that businesses understood the limitations. 42.5% said they felt some businesses understand and others don’t. While 55% said that they felt employers have the bias that Working From Home offers far more freedom and flexibility than it really does.

To add to this I saw even more shocking stories in the comment section of what this stereotype has done to people, their living situation and their families, some of them are extreme.

But what surprised me the most is how brazen employers are when questioning the working arrangement of other people who live in their employee’s household.

I fail to see how anyone cannot appreciate how inappropriate and unprofessional that is. If an employee is asking for any kind of leave or change in shift, it is no business of the employer to question why a person outside of their employ cannot perform the task needed.

What flexibility does Working From Home actually offer?

As I said before, it depends on the individual employer how flexible their form of Working From Home is. And the range of that is as long as it is short.

However, if we take it for it’s core definition, this way of working only refers to one thing; the location of where someone does their work.

So in theory, Working From Home in terms of flexibility only really impacts one aspect of someone’s working day. And that is the need to commute into work. This is the only solid difference between an employee who works in an office and one who Works From Home. Every other aspect is completely subjective.

Yet some businesses seem to think that employees who Work From Home have all the free time in the world. I have seen first hand this is not the case.

I know of people who WFH, whose shift patterns including; start time, break times and shift end are just as strictly regimented and monitored as if they were in an office.

Then, I know of people who used to commute to the office and are now casually expected to use the time they used commuting as extra time to spend working.

WFH, Parenting Roles and Unconscious Bias

A point was made by one of the commenters on the poll, questioning whether (when it comes to parents) employers’ attitudes differ depending on which parent is the one Working From Home.

This comment got a fair few likes. Then when I looked further, I realised the majority of people who voted were women and everyone who shared a personal story on the subject was female.

This does beg the question of whether this is a bias on WFH or more unconscious (or perhaps even conscious) bias against women in the workplace who WFH?

This could be yet another insight into the ongoing existence of gender bias and inequality in the workplace. With a bias against mothers Working From Home adding yet another layer to this.

Do I think that this is in actual fact the case? I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. I believe there are employers who still have gender equality issues and I believe there are employers who have an unfair bias about people who Work From Home. Some of these will overlap and become mixed with one another, but both need addressing.

FTDAWWFH (Free To Do Anything While Working From Home)

Clearly in extremes, this is what some believe Working From Home actually means. There needs to be a serious crash course on what WFH actually is.

Lesson 1 for businesses is reminding them what the ‘W’ stands for. Just because the location of where it is being conducted happens to be home, that doesn’t give the employees the magical ability to be able to take care of all domestic responsibilities while they are at work.

That insinuates that the work they do is less important or easier because they happen to be doing it at home, which clearly isn’t the case. Lesson 2 should be on further flexibility.

It’s clear from our data that some businesses believe WFH is all the flexibility anyone needs. First and foremost, if someone has 8-10 hours worth of work to do in a day, where are they supposed to find time to:

  • Clean the house
  • Do the laundry
  • Pick kids up from school
  • Look after children at home
  • Drop kids off at football, dance, karate etc.
  • Cook meals
  • Look after a sick relative
  • Deal with an unforeseen emergency
  • Go to a doctors, dentist or vet appointment

This list could go on and on, for some people their daily lives consist of this and more. So between all that which they apparently have full availability for, where are they finding the time to complete the 8-10 hours of work that has been set for that day?

Are they expected to work into the early hours of the morning? Because that sounds flexible. So why should they or their wife, husband, partner, mother, father etc. be denied any kind of flexibility to help with any of these responsibilities?

The Solution

Honestly, I think if there are any businesses suffering from any of the aforementioned bias I think they need some serious HR consulting. Working From Home is purely about location, what flexibility comes with that is a totally separate conversation for individual employers to have with their employees.

Although, no employee whether they WFH or not should feel unable to ask for certain needs to be met. And this certainly should not be the case for people who happen to have a member of their household who Works From Home.

There is no other way to put it: that it is not an employer’s business. It is quite literally someone else’s and that business just happens to have their employee Working From Home. And their work is every bit as important, time-consuming and attention requiring as any employee who does not conduct their Work From Home.

Either way, there is definitely a misconception about Working From Home and how flexible it is. The same could be said for the 4-day week which is another hot topic right now. See what John Adams has to to say on the subject and how flexible it really is.

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A Day In The Life Of... Careers

A Day in the Life of Director: Sally Marshall

Find Your Flex is delighted to be delivering our latest installment of the Day in the Life Of series. Sally Marshall is someone who wears many career hats, but is still able to find true work-life balance!

Sally is a social enterprise advisor as well as the director of her own business. Take a look at how Sally finds her day to day and what drives her in her career!

WHAT DOES A WORKING DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

I currently have 2 contracts with Social Enterprise Kent, working with business owners as a social enterprise adviser. This involves talking to businesses about where they are and where they want to be, putting in place a strategy for increasing awareness and growing their network.

I also work with community interest companies and charities and they often want help identifying and applying for funding. I also run my own business, so I work on that during the evenings and weekends.

I publish a business magazine, so networking is important when keeping the magazine in the forefront of people’s minds. I can do this through social media and engaging with other businesses.

I also have a membership for businesses offering group coaching, a monthly digital planner and social media templates. I know how difficult it can be to do everything in a business so I use my knowledge and experience to support others.

HOW DO YOU FIND A LIFE WORK BALANCE?

My role is pretty flexible and depends on which programme I’m working on and where my clients are based. For the Steer Your Business magazine, I schedule articles on social media during the weekend or evening which doesn’t take too long so it doesn’t impact too much on my personal time.

I’m also setting up a membership for sole traders and this again is automated a lot of the time, with intervention in the evening and over the weekend. I enjoy what I do so it doesn’t feel like work. I do however, plan some down time so that I switch off.

One of the downsides of having your own business is that you don’t switch off enough, so I know how important that is. Walking away from the laptop helps and switching off the phone as well which I do at the weekend.

ARE THERE ANY OPPORTUNITIES TO PROGRESS?

There aren’t any learning opportunities really at Social Enterprise Kent, particularly as I only work on short term contracts. But in my own business, I’m always learning.

My background in the House of Commons set me on the right track but there’s always room to learn more and develop my own knowledge and experience in different sectors.

WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT YOUR ROLE?

The flexibility it gives me and the choices I have to work with different people in different businesses. I love the challenge and helping other businesses thrive.

IS THERE A DIFFICULT PART TO YOUR JOB?

Juggling everything! I need to be well organised in order to fit everything in. That is one of the reasons for developing the digital planner in a way that works for me and hopefully for others. It helps keep me focussed and on track. I also automate as much as possible so that I have more time for the face to face meetings.

IF SOMEONE WAS CONSIDERING A CAREER IN YOUR AREA OF EXPERTISE, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THEM?

I have a lot of transferable skills which I learned at the House of Commons. I didn’t realise how much I knew! I think it’s the same for everyone – you assume others know what you do so we all have something to offer.

I would advise them to research their market, work out what they have to offer and then just go out there and get started. If you wait until it’s perfect, you never actually start so running a business is a steep learning curve but in a good way.

THANK YOU SALLY FOR SHARING YOUR INSIGHTS AS A DIRECTOR! 

A great piece of advice from Sally! It’s inspiring to see a strong business leader so dedicated to her role and one who has so much passion within said role!

If you would like to gain even more insight into how to maintain a work-life balance while working in multiple roles, have a read of a day in the life of a lead power systems engineer and author and founder?

Categories
Career Returners Career Returners Careers Equality and Diversity

Gov Returners Programme for Women in STEM

Back in June Find Your Flex released an article questioning whether society is doing enough for women in STEM roles. Nine months later on International Women’s Day 2022, the government announced it’s plan to introduce a returner programme for women in STEM.

We’re happy that the government is catching up and acting on the clear path forward. Returner programmes are nothing new, Find Your Flex have hosted several returner programmes including STEM industry programmes.

However, a government implemented scheme designed specifically for women in STEM is a huge step in the right direction. Or is it?

How does a returner programme help get more women into STEM?

The aim of this programme is to close the gender-pay gap in the STEM industry. So how does this returner programme accomplish that?

In order to build upon something, the foundation needs to be maintained. Women who are currently in the STEM industry need to be retained and women who have stepped away from the industry for a time need to have entryways back, otherwise there will be nothing to build upon.

This is also about making sure the gap doesn’t widen by having women leave a role in STEM for temporary reasons and those roles being filled by men. And not having valuable knowledge and experience that women possess in this industry go to waste.

Women often report that they don’t feel as if they belong in engineering and computing fields … This more tenuous sense of fit with the professional role of an engineer was found to be associated with a greater likelihood of leaving the field.”

This shows there’s a battle on two fronts; trying to get women into STEM roles and trying to keep the ones already in place. Returner programmes are the middle ground; trying to get women back into STEM roles who have left.

Are women in STEM the priority?

The government implementing a STEM returner programme specifically for women is a wholly positive move. Although the way in which it was announced does bring into question how much of a priority this is really? It was introduced almost as a subsidiary of the transparent salaries pilot scheme, as it was showcased within that announcement.

However, STEM returner programmes for women feels like a totally separate scheme to transparent salaries. Though both can be used as tools to close the gender-pay gap, they also have other effects outside of that. Transparent Salaries affects all industries and tackles multiple issues. This programme focuses on one issue in one industry.

Getting more women into STEM roles and returning to STEM careers is a separate issue and a prominent one. It would have perhaps been more prudent if this returner programme had been announced separately or at least been given equal focus. This would have shown the government is just as committed to both.

Although, the fact that a government is running this programme is a huge step in the right direction. It shows that there is a need for more women in STEM roles in general and this should have a positive impact on that.

Returners and Retention in STEM could lead to further female talent Acquisition

Having a government backed returner programme will make it easier for women to return to higher level positions. Previously they have found this difficult if they did want to return to the STEM industry. Re-entering via roles they are overqualified for.

The 2021 STEM Returners index survey revealed that 61% of returners found the process of returning to the industry difficult or very difficult. Those who did return commented on being overqualified for their role and had entered at levels below where they were prior to their break.

This is one reason the returner programme will aid in helping new female talent enter the STEM industry. If experienced, qualified women are re-entering the industry at a lower level, this results in less opportunities for new talent. If qualified women re-enter at the same level they left, there will be more opportunities for new female talent.

There is also the chain reaction of the more women retained and returning in the STEM industry the more role models there are. An existing barrier is there is not enough female representation for girls in education to pursue a career in STEM.

A pwc report contained testimonials from female students. Some said they don’t want a career in tech as it is a male dominated industry. 83% of female students could not name a prominent female role model in tech. The more women in STEM, the more role models and prominent figures there will be.

The future of Women in STEM

No matter how you look at it, the future is far more hopeful for women in STEM after the government’s announcement. It’s one thing for businesses to individually or even collectively do their part to fix an issue. But when the issue is big enough to warrant government action, it results in an important shift within the industry.

Could more be being done? Of course! But this is just the beginning, getting more women into STEM roles will require far more time and investment to achieve the end goal. But this is a big step towards that, now we can focus on what the next step is.

For more information on women in the STEM industry click here.

Categories
A Day In The Life Of... Careers

A Day In The Life Of The Lead Power Systems Engineer and Author & Founder of Butterfly Books

We’ve been lucky to gain so much insight from people in a number of different roles. Now Find Your Flex is ecstatic to be presenting the next installment of our Day in the Life Of series.

The amazing Kerrine Bryan tells us how she achieves life-work balance with not one but two roles! Kerrine manages a career as a Lead Power Systems Engineer and is an Author and Founder of her company Butterfly Books. Take a look at her working day to see exactly what balance is!

What does a working day look like for you?

I work in the energy group for WSP USA, which is a global engineering and professional services consultancy. Based in New York, my role is a mixture of technical, project management and business development work. I’m working on some exciting power generation projects including co-generation, energy saving studies and renewable power. For my engineering role typically – I start early around 7 am and start off responding to emails and sorting out any admin. My role involves design so I use software to calculate electrical requirements to ensure electrical systems are safe for use. Mid-morning and early afternoon I tend to have meetings – those could be internal or client meetings. Then back to design work in the afternoon. Occasionally I have project site visits, mainly in the New York area, but I have also traveled to other states and countries for my work.

My work for Butterfly Books includes general running of the business, writing new books, and coordinating with the team on content that will help us make a social impact and spread awareness about our mission. We work closely with other organisations when creating the books so there are often collaboration meetings and our busiest time is when we have a book launch. But that’s also a lot of fun too!

How do you find a life work balance?

I’m married and have two daughters who are 4 and 2 years old. My husband and I moved to the US just before they were born so we don’t have the family support that we would have if we were in the UK. Pre-Covid, just like many industries, the engineering and energy industry were less flexible, but the pandemic has forced them to move to more flexible working patterns and companies have been able to see that it can work. My current employer has always been flexible. I’m currently working part-time in my engineering role, so that’s 3 long days per week. This gives me the time I need for organising the kids (including school run and extra-curricular clubs) and also keeping Butterfly Books going – which is a UK based social enterprise.

I work on the Butterfly Books on the days off for the few hours whilst the kids are in school and also in the evenings once they are in bed. My husband does the school run on the days that I’m engineering, and I do the school run on the other days. The flexibility of my engineering role has really helped be achieve work-life balance.

Are there any opportunities to progress?

Yes definitely, particularly with the skills gaps in engineering there is always an opportunity. I was recently supported by my employer to study for and take a US professional exam. This involved me taking some time off to study, working lots of late nights. In terms of running Butterfly Books and being a business owner, that’s more self-learning/. By building a network of people doing similar things, as I have done, we learn from each other too.

What is the best part about your role?

The best part of engineering is that not one day is the same. Every day presents a challenge, so work is never boring, plus I always learn something new every day. Similarly with running my business, Butterfly Books, it’s a continuous learning curve. But what keeps me going is knowing that we are working towards having a positive impact on equality across industries and different careers.

Is there a difficult part to your job?

I can honestly say that there haven’t been too many difficulties in my engineering role. The publishing industry, however, is very traditional and rigid with many barriers to entry. This is something I’ve had to circumnavigate when setting up Butterfly Books.

If someone was considering a career in your area of expertise, what advice would you give to them?

If someone was considering a career in engineering I would say to speak with engineers – and if you don’t know any then there are plenty of resources or organisations that can put you in touch with engineers – such as the Institute of Engineering and Technology. When it comes to publishing – I’m still learning – but again it’s the same approach of reaching out to organisations and building a network to share ideas and learn from others.

Thank you Kerrine for sharing your insights as The Lead Power Systems Engineer and Author & Founder of Butterfly Books!

Thank you so much to Kerrine who an excellent role model for anyone who is driven and is looking to have a varied professional life while still maintaining life-work balance!

To read more about what a working day looks like in different roles, why not take a read of the day in the life of Business Support Manager Akinsanya Tolulope!

Categories
Careers Flexible Working Future of work Output

Productivity, Productivity, They’ve all got it in for Me!

The figures from the Office of National Statistics are in and they make for very interesting reading. What figures are these? Productivity estimates for Q4, 2021.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. The figures show that remote, flexible working has created a more productive workforce. Not just productive, but a workforce that is more productive working fewer hours.

Line Graph showing the increase of Output Productivity and hours worked from 2008 to 2021.
(Line Graph showing the increase of Output from 2008 to 2021.)

The Productivity Numbers Don’t Lie!

There is a vast amount of statistical detail and analysis behind the figures produced by the ONS so I’ll keep it simple. Prior to the pandemic, average hours worked by UK workers were 32.1 a week. For the final quarter of 2021, it is estimated the average number of hours worked was 31.6 per week. Output, however, was 0.8% above 2019 levels.

Interestingly, on the day these figures were published, my wife had been working in her office. It was the first time she had gone to her workplace for ages. I happened to tell her about the ONS stats and she said: “Well I left the house this morning at 7.30am and I’m just back now, so that’s a 12 hour day and I’ve spent maybe six of that actually working.”

I think my wife’s comment sums up the problem with the old, inflexible working culture. Everyone wasted time commuting to an office to use a laptop when that same device works perfectly well at home.

So to Maximize Productivity should we Abolish Office Working?

No, I am not suggesting we should get away of all offices forever. I think that is unrealistic and they do serve a purpose for team building, training, occasional meetings etc. Nonetheless, the figures suggest a predominantly home-based workforce, one that doesn’t pollute the planet travelling to work each day, is more productive.

I had long wondered what impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on productivity. It was reasonable to think things could be that bad because I didn’t hear any employers saying the productivity of their staff had tanked when the ‘work from home’ orders were in place in England. I have to caution that the ONS stats are estimates, but if they are correct, they show that remote work is productive work (It is also worth noting this set of stats are the first set to be produced following the ending of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which had an impact on productivity levels).

Creating a Productive Future of Working.

What I hope this leads to is a discussion about presenteeism and flexibility. If you can be more productive working fewer hours, why should you be online or in the workplace simply because your contract says you should? Better still, if you can be more productive without travelling to a workplace, why should you experience the stress of making that journey in the first place?

This is particularly relevant for fathers. Research carried out at the beginning of the pandemic by the Fatherhood Institute found dads spent more time with their families and took on more of the domestic burden when they no longer had to commute to work.

Could we possibly reach a point where employment contracts state that they expect you to work: “38 hours a week or until you have completed allotted tasks to your manager’s satisfaction, whichever comes first”? I’d like to think this is the next logical step.

Prioritising Productivity Going Forward.

Now is the time to ask these questions. The work from home order is no longer in place in England and it does feel like we are entering a new phase of the pandemic. Potential conflict in the Ukraine and Prince Andrew’s legal battles are dominating the news headlines (for all the wrong reasons I should stress) but COVID is way down the news agenda. After two years of this nonsense, we seem to be drifting to a point where we are adapting our lives and accepting the fact COVID is here to stay.

What COVID did was get everyone thinking about working culture: Employees, employers, trade unions, academics and policy makers. As part of this drift to a new normal, we must not forget about the progress made in adopting flexible and remote working. There’s now evidence to show productivity has improved by working this way. If anything, now is the time to shout loudest to make sure we don’t slide back to less productive working patterns. After all, unproductive working patterns are bad for everyone.

To find out more about Output based working have a read of our piece on Input and Output – The Human Mechanics of Work!

Categories
A Day In The Life Of... Careers

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BUSINESS SUPPORT TEAM MANAGER: Akinsanya Tolulope

It’s important in every company to keep the ball rolling in all areas of business. That is why the role of Business Support Team Manager is one of the most instrumental roles within any business, as they are often the people to turn to for all forms of support that will ensure employees meet KPI’s.

This is why Find Your Flex is so excited to be presenting the latest installment of our A Day in the Life of series. As we gain insights from HMRC’s very own Business Support Manager Akinsanya Tolulope! Who explains the responsibilities of her role and how she maintains work-life balance.

What does a working day look like for a Business Support Team Manager?

I ensure that the CCM and regime teams are supported in delivery of the Large Business operating model. Directly line manage a cross regime team of Band AO’s who support all stakeholders across LB SNI and undertake general corporate support duties. I ensure that my team meets all KPI’s and successfully deliver on the support functions within their remit. A day in my role would start with ensuring that the arranged cover for the regional mailbox is available and if not, to find a suitable cover as soon possible. To find a suitable cover, I will have to communicate the situation with the team and ask for volunteers to cover fully or partially. I must ensure that work is picked up across the team and that nothing misses the KPI’s.

I review my teams leave position, approve any request and discuss any inconsistencies with the affected person. I am also one of the single points of contact for the regime handling systems. I manage access and permissions for colleagues on the regime handling systems and the mailbox within my line of business. I am a key member of the Race network, actively supporting the business to deliver on REAP. So, I spend part of my days catching up tasks to deliver on some of the network’s projects.

How do you find a work life balance?

HMRC is one of the best organisations when it comes to supporting employees on work-life balance. As a mother of two and an employee who lives an hour by driving from my primary place of work, I have benefitted greatly from available support. My role allows me to work from home, office or a mix of both.The organisation takes individual circumstances into consideration and appropriate measures in place for adequate interventions.

Are there opportunities to progress?

My role comes with opportunities such as apprenticeship, management development programme and wider HMRC/Civil service opportunities. This opportunities do not only help to excel in my current role but also have the potential to develop the right skills for future endeavours.

What is the best part about being a Business Support Team Manager?

The best part about my role is the opportunity to learn a little bit about everything and learn something new almost everyday. Managing a team that works across regimes means that aside from gaining knowledge on these regimes, I also get to collaborate with colleagues across different regimes. So I’m constantly meeting new people and regularly updating my knowledge of how the organisation works.

Is there a difficult part to your job?

Managing people can be quite challenging especially when there is the need to align their personal needs with organisational needs to achieve a positive outcome. I navigate this by gaining comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter. Communicating the benefits for the organisation and the individual to the affected person(‘s) and negotiate the best outcome for all.

If someone was considering a career in your area of expertise, what advice would you give them?

Be open to learning and make the best of every opportunity.

Thank you Akinsanya for sharing your insights as a Business Support Team Manager

It’s exciting to hear about such a challenging and varied role! And one that clearly takes a lot of passion to do well and we are so grateful to see how passionate Akinsanya is about her work. We know this will inspire readers who are of the same mind and what like to get into a role in the same field!

There are a variety of roles out there! If you want to read what its like to work in these, why not take a look at are other ‘A Day in the Life Of…’ installments!

Check out A Day in the Life Of R&D Category Lead: Aline Mor to find out more!

Categories
Careers Lifestyle

The Right Mindset is Vital on your Career Journey

Tis’ the season to be jolly! We at Find Your Flex hope you are all enjoying the festive season; feeling merry, giving and thankful for all the positivity Christmas brings. Such is the mindset of this time of year.

Speaking of mindset; Find Your Flex wants to give you all a Christmas present that will last you a lifetime! But we’ll get to that later. For now we are posing the question of why mindset is so important on your career journey?

The answer might seem obvious; a positive mindset is the best way to achieve your goals. That is certainly true, but that’s a generalising view.

When we go deeper there are different types of mindsets when on your career journey. And they can all be empowering or detrimental to where you end up. Even a positive mindset can be the wrong kind for a certain stage of your career.

Have a defeatist Mindset never gets you anywhere

Searching for your ideal job role that will mark the beginning or the next stage in your career journey, can be a daunting thing. You can put a lot of pressure on yourself because of this.

Arguably your mindset is the most important aspect of looking for work. It can be what makes or breaks an application or an interview.

Referring back to pressure, you can sometimes have the mindset that you’re not good enough or don’t fit the requirements. The more job applications you see that make you feel unworthy, the more ingrained you can get into this way of thinking. Avoid this mindset at all costs as it is a long road to nowhere good.

If you don’t know this already, Find Your Flex is here to let you in on the secret: most employers don’t really expect you to tick every box on a job application. Even the so-called “essential requirements.”

What you have to understand is, in the employers’ minds; that is the perfect candidate. And nobody’s perfect, so it’s like a test; see which boxes do get ticked and how the other aspects that might be lacking, are compensated for.

Find Your Flex has campaigned for this to change as we believe it is an unfair way of advertising jobs. And that employers are missing out on a lot of Talent because of this. Job descriptions should be output based; describing solely the output of the job and not set out an essential criteria for the applicant. For more on output, click here.

Regardless of how stacked job descriptions appear, or how many applications don’t go anywhere, do not put yourself down because of it. It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole with that way of thinking and it will never lead to success.

You are not owed anything

On the other end of the scale, you can never just assume you have done enough to get a job and be content with that. I’m speaking with some experience here.

Overconfidence and naivety will never fuel a mindset that will benefit you.

Sometimes we can be naive about what will get us into our ideal job role. I was naive when initially looking to secure a role. I believed that since I worked hard to achieve my degree, that should show employers I’m a good fit for their role. I was wrong.

For graduates fresh out of uni, if all you have is your degree and nothing else, I’m here to tell you it is not enough. That may not seem fair but unfortunately it is the truth.

Not to say your degree isn’t an important part of your CV, it is. But if that’s all you have there will be others with that and more. Read John Adam’s thoughts on Universities in the modern world for more on this subject. Although, its not just about graduates looking to start their careers.

If you have years of experience in a role, you might think that should automatically make you fit for a similar role you are applying for. That might not be the case.

If you were in the same role for 10+ years and that role did not change or you didn’t accumulate any new skills during that time, there is an issue.

A lot can change in that time. If you refer to past experience alone, an employer can view you as set in your ways or even outdated.

Even certain positive mindsets can be detrimental if they are overly positive to the point of being unrealistic. Always look for that balance between optimistic and realistic.

Complacency vs Progression

It is important to maintain a healthy mindset while in work. This can sometimes be difficult when you’re not necessarily where you want to be in your career.

When climbing the ladder you should be actively trying to increase your knowledge, skills and experience. This can be done both inside and outside of work.

If you want to progress in your career quickly, you should always be looking for new opportunities everywhere. Not just where you currently work.

However climbing the ladder might not be what you want. There’s no law that says you can’t be content with your current position and should constantly be seeking more. Your current role may facilitate your life well enough. You don’t need to be constantly thinking: “what’s next?”

That does not mean you should stop developing. Be content sure, but don’t get complacent. Because the only certain thing in life is that nothing is for certain.

You never know what is round the corner, especially in the digital age where job roles are becoming automated all the time. Or the company you work for may hit hard times and be forced make redundancies.

I touched upon this earlier; if you spend years in a role that does not alter and you learn nothing new in all that time, you put yourself at a disadvantage.

Even if you are happy with your current role, you should still keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to improve your skill set. Even simply keeping up to date with the latest developments that affect your role and learning the skills that come with these.

The mindset you have must always keep the future in sight. Whether climbing the ladder or having a back up plan; always keep developing yourself.

So what is the Mindset you need for Success?

If you think you have to have different mindsets for each stage of your career journey, you don’t. There is one mindset that accounts for every point of your professional life from start to finish.

Find Your Flex wants you to have said mindset, but we also want to bring you more than that throughout your career journey. Other tools and advice that will empower you to achieve your career goals and enable you to put life first.

To find out the true mindset to success, visit here to download the pdf. Think of it as opening the door to an Advent Calendar, what is inside may not be as sweet as chocolate, but what you will receive is far more rewarding and empowering!

Keep your eye out, holidays are coming, but so are great things from Find Your Flex!

Categories
A Day In The Life Of... Careers

A Day in the Life Of R&D Category Lead: Aline Mor

Nestlé is one of the most globally recognised organisation in the world. And one of the most exemplary organisations for Flexible Working. Which is why the Find Your Flex team is excited to be expanding on their roles and how work/life balance is made a priority.

There are many roles within the global confectionery company, in this instance we are happy to be getting the inside scoop from the R&D Category Lead – KITKAT and Healthier Snacks; Aline Mor. Aline sheds some light in her working day and why she enjoys her role so much. She also highlights the importance of planning when maintaining work/life balance. Join us in finding out more from Aline, as it may inspire you to pursue a similar line of work.

What does a working day look like for an R&D Category Lead?

It is a busy and diverse day with many interactions with my team and people in all parts of the world to discuss future innovation opportunities and our live R&D Projects, with delicious product tasting as well.

How do you find a work life balance?

I always try to protect parts of my calendar to make sure I can bring my daughters to school most of the days, have time for lunch and have time for exercise. I also always go to the office by bike, which gives me a great fresh start of the day and a way to decompress at the end of the day before arriving back at home. If working from home, I always start the day with a walk.

Are there opportunities to progress?

There are many opportunities to progress in such a big company as Nestle with so many product categories and different functions in the UK and around the world.

What is the best part about being an R&D Category Lead?

The best part is definitely to work in such a diverse/ inclusive environment and have a multicultural team to lead, develop and coach to deliver new amazing products to delight our consumers and grow our business around the world.

Is there a difficult part to your job?

The most difficult part is to manage my own calendar to ensure I am focused on the right things.

If someone was considering a career in your area of expertise, what advice would you give to them?

Discover what activities can help you to re-energise and have a good work life balance and protect and prioritise them in your calendar.

THANK YOU TO ALINE FOR SHARING HER INSIGHTS AS AN R&D CATEGORY LEAD WITH US!

An amazing take on the working life of an R&D Category Lead. It is clear to anyone reading that Aline loves her job, yet is also steadfast in maintaining a healthy work/life balance. We can all learn a lesson from this, as even when we have access to flexible working, it can mean nothing without our own commitment, ownership and planning. This is an important lesson for us all to keep in mind, once again thank you to Aline Mor for providing this.

If you are curious about other potential career paths, or perhaps want to know what it is like guiding others through their career path, have a read of A Day in the Life Of a Life and Business Coach: Veena Hedges.

Categories
Automation Careers

The Impact of Automation on Career Development

This month is National Career Development month. Naturally, we at Find Your Flex are invested in the nation’s career development at every level.

This year’s theme is centred on how Artificial Intelligence (A.I) and Automation is affecting the Future of Work. And how the career development of the nation needs to evolve when taking this into account.

Automation and how it is impacting the workforce is a development that Find Your Flex has been watching closely. We have done our part to keep people informed of these developments and how they will be impacted by these. Now we wish to join the National Career Development Association in raising awareness on this subject and how existing career development practices need to be prepared for the inevitable.

Automation is the Future

We’ve discussed the topic of automation and how it affects certain industries such as retail and hospitality and how it affects national and global security.

But the fact is; automation and A.I will affect everything in the future. We are only baring witness to the beginning; video technology has been introduced to most sports. We speak to chat bots on websites far more than having real people deal with our enquiries (often to our frustration). And does anyone even order at the til in McDonald’s anymore?

This will only expand and increase as time goes on and even more efficient technology will be developed to carry out tasks that people are required to do. Many existing manual job roles will become obsolete, as many already have.

Ignorance won’t be Bliss

There’s no point trying to resist this inevitable change or delude our individual selves that “it won’t affect me and my prospects” because it will, it’s happening as we speak. And if we choose to ignore this and do nothing, what will happen? Have you seen the Disney Pixar film WALL-E? If not look down below to see what happened to all the people of an automated society who did nothing and just let tech take over!

(Image sourced from psycritic.com)

The scary thing is, this is only partially a joke. Is this really an impossible stretch from where we are now? Staring at screens all day, communicating without any physical interaction and having food delivered to us with just the click of a button.

All we’re really missing is the floating chairs and trust me, there’s probably some tech wizard out there right now trying to change that. So what can we do to avoid this?

Develop New Career Development

The answer is pretty simple, we do what humans always do when faced with change, we adapt and evolve. And with this particular obstacle, the answer lies in what we call career development, which encompasses everything we do to grow professionally.

In education, automation and A.I have to become a bigger part of the national curriculum. In the sense that we need to look at how individual subjects are effected by today’s technology and make sure the next generation are fully equipped to understand and utilize it. This needs to start as early as possible and be a vital part of their ongoing education.

“I must prepare my two- and three-year-old sons to race with the robots, and not against them. Our kids are going to meet an economy with far fewer entry-level positions and will have to clamber up a receding ladder. That means being in schools equipped to exceed the averages, not rising to meet them.” – Kristen Millares Young, The Guardian

It doesn’t stop at schools though, this goes for colleges, universities, apprenticeships, traineeships, returner programmes, company progression schemes etc.

Every. Single. Form. Of Career Development MUST impart knowledge and skills that will enable people to gain employment in an automated world.

If someone is looking to enter the retail industry, they need to be taught skills on how to monitor, analyse and utilize technologies within that industry. The same goes for roles in hospitality, health and social care, construction etc. With every new form of automation there will be new opportunities for the workforce linked to that technology. Whether it is maintaining said technology or a role that uses the data that technology provides.

The Fears of Career Development in the Digital Age

When talking about a future that is going to be dominated by automated technologies there is an aspect that needs to be addressed.

For a lot of people, this future is a terrifying one. As it leaves them feeling uncertain about their place in it.

The reason for this is that some of us find technology more difficult to use than others. This is especially true for some people who grew up without this level of technology in their lives.

When working in a certain way for a lengthy period and to then be told everything is going to change and you need to learn all these new technological skills in order to remain employed. That would scare pretty much anyone.

But it isn’t just older generations that this can seem daunting for. There are plenty of children, teenagers and young adults, that find tech more difficult to get their heads round.

The issue is when we’re talking about career development evolving in preparation for the “digital age”. Talking about, data, automation, artificial intelligence etc. Someone who isn’t necessarily tech minded can hear these phrases and assume that you need to be a computer genius to be suited for a role in technology.

But you don’t.

Career Developing for Automation with Find Your Flex

Having the mindset of needing to be a computer genius to be suitable for ANY role involving technology, is like saying someone needs to be a fully trained architect to build a sand castle.

Technology like everything else, has varying levels of simplicity. And its important to keep this in mind when applying for jobs or if you want to progress in your career.

There are going to be entry-level roles involving technology that you will likely find easy once given simple but clear instructions on how to use it.

At Find Your Flex, we have been doing our part to alleviate these worries and are working with businesses who are providing traineeships, apprenticeships, returner programmes and skills courses. All of these are designed with automation and the digital age in mind.

Each of these forms of career development are designed for people from all walks of life, to be able to begin or continue working in an automated environment. And we will continue to do this so that no one has to worry about automation affecting the career prospects.

Visit our Apprenticeship Hub, Returner Hub and Online Courses to find out more!

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