Categories
Flexible Working Lifestyle

Will Lockdown Change How and Where We Live?

Home Sweet Home. It is our shelter, our sanctuary, our escape from the world and is reputedly where the heart is. But the Covid-19 crisis has caused us to reassess how we interact with that space in so many ways including in a professional context. The rise and prevalence of remote working has shown what can be achieved without crossing the threshold of our front door. What does this mean for how and where we live?

Redefining Home Working

Few would wish to re-create the emergency lockdown makeshift of balancing computers on the kitchen table or precariously on knees whilst perching on the sofa. There have been noises and disruptions, with drying laundry scattered around, and the paraphernalia of personal life in the background. We have all suffered at times from cabin fever and sensory overload. Clearly this ad-hoc approach is not the best long-term strategy for effective homeworking and many increasingly do want to work remotely on a more sustained basis.

A designated room in the house to be used solely as an office is one solution. It presents soundproofed peace and, if carefully devised and arranged, a business-like environment. One which is separated from its domestic counterpart. There is also the chance, physically and mentally, to shut the door on work at the end of the day. And we all do need to switch off at some point. But how to magic up this space?

Space – The First Frontier

One option is for people to upgrade in their existing location which means negotiating a bigger mortgage and taking a harder hit on monthly repayments. This is not always financially viable. With the economy stuttering and redundancies afoot, it may also be a risky step.

Another route is to improve-not-move. This is done by building an extension onto an existing property or converting an attic to be used as an office hub. Basement renovations are also popular when you have no choice but to dig deep. Alternatively, open plan could be ditched with a large footprint split into two smaller rooms to create a work bubble. Once Covid is over (yes, this too will pass), builders may face a welcome upturn in demand for their services as people redesign their homes to meet changing needs.

But some are contemplating more radical solutions. The Office for National Statistics, which is tracking the impact of Covid-19, indicates that office-based employees are now willing to exchange crowded cities for pastures new. Among those planning to work from home, 12% have considered moving to a rural or costal area. Estate agents have seen more buyer registrations for properties in commuter villages and around small market towns. The temporary stamp duty holiday offered by the Chancellor, to kickstart the housing market out of its virus paralysis, has provided a further incentive to up sticks and turn daydreams into reality.

New Home, New Lifestyle

It is not merely the extra legroom that is the draw. As per Rightmove, the online property website, there is a “lure of a new lifestyle, one that is quieter and has an abundance of beautiful countryside and more outdoor space.” If people can work from home more, they may decide to live further out. Thus accepting a longer commute on certain days in return for a mode of living that is calmer, greener and less polluted. In turn this leads to a healthier and less stressful existence. It is an appealing vista.

This approach pans out on more than a personal level with a possible wider economic impact. There is a chance to rebalance house prices in different regions, to reinvigorate local economies and to promote a rural renaissance. Perhaps it is time to update the old saying to Home and Office, Sweet Home and Office.

Categories
Careers Flexible Working

The Coolest, Weirdest & Most Christmassy Jobs Ever

2020 has seen mass unemployment, the introduction of the word furlough to our dictionary and the boom in flexible and remote working opportunities.

The year may be almost over, but that hasn’t stopped us thinking about the most amazing jobs that have popped up on the radar over the years during the festive season.

In this article we look at the most amazing jobs that are available during Winter and a lot of them are even available with a flexible working schedule!

Santa Claus

Do you love Christmas? Can you shake your belly like a bowl full of jelly? Can you grow a big beard, name all 9 reindeer AND “Ho Ho Ho”?!

Then your perfect festive job is becoming SANTA!

Santa Claus has been a figure of popular culture since the mid 1700’s and you’ll be responsible for keeping the magic alive. You’ll need to be able to work a crowd of festive fun goers, let out some big Ho Ho Ho’s and captivate children into believing in Santa Claus.

Some background in acting, drama or performing is usually expected as well as being able to improvise and think on the spot – you never know what children might ask Santa for! Preferable attributes include enjoying mince pies, not having a fear of flying and previous reindeer handling experience. This is not essential though as full training will usually be given.

Christmas Elf

Become a part of the yuletide tradition, and turn yourself into a Christmas Elf! If you love Christmas, enjoy working with children, and thrive on helping people create magical memories with a fantastic festive experience then this is absolutely a job you should consider. As an Elf, you will spend early December through to Christmas Eve assisting jolly Santa. 

Experience is desirable but not essential as training will usually be given. A theatrical interest is beneficial, as are any additional special talents to bring a smile to small faces, such as dancing, juggling and general wackiness.

Ice Sculptor

Ice sculptures are created by highly-skilled artists who carve impressions out of ice. Before even a small chunk of ice is removed from a budding ice sculpture, an ice sculptor must first come up with an idea and design. In many cases, this design is dictated by the sculptor’s clients. Once an ice sculptor has decided on what type of masterpiece he wants to create, they must then obtain a suitable piece of ice. The most desirable pieces of ice are rather large and completely clear. Since regular water has a tendency to become cloudy when it freezes, special measures must be taken to create suitable blocks of ice. 

After the idea has been sketched and the ice has been obtained or created, an ice sculptor then starts creating his masterpiece by removing small bits or ice from the block. This can be done using several different tools. Some tools that are used for sculpting ice include chainsaws, chisels, rotary tools, files, rasps, and torches.

Ski Instructor

There are many types of jobs available to people who would like to do temporary seasonal work in a ski resort. One job that is competitive is that of the ski instructor. When dreaming of working in a ski resort, it’s perhaps this role that springs to mind as it is seen as one of the most glamorous positions. You’re out all day on the ski slopes – but isn’t that what people work in ski resorts for; to get as much time as possible on the mountains? 

But working as a ski instructor doesn’t have to be just a temporary seasonal position. A lot of students and graduates who take on holiday or part time work end up making a dedicated full time career out of it. Ski instructors earn between £9-£14 an hour depending on where they’re based.

Professional Gift Wrapper

This is a role with a variety of flexible working options. You could work for yourself, wrapping presents for people with money to spend but are short on time, or you could set up a business where you train others on how to wrap correctly. Wouldn’t it be amazing to go into a shop like Harrods or Selfridges and teach the staff how to present the gift-wrapped purchases beautifully? 

You need creativity and an open mind to become a professional gift wrapper, as well as impeccable attention to detail – every has to be absolutely perfect. People start out on pretty much the minimum wage, but once you’ve got going, you can charge £150 a day. It’s seasonal work though, so you’ll need to think about how to expand your business during the slower times.

Christmas Tree Decorator

If you’ve got an eye for detail, as well as boundless ends of creativity and energy then you could become a professional Christmas tree decorator. You will also need to have steady hands to ensure that ornaments are not damaged, as well as nerves of steel as you may be working up a ladder quite a bit of the time. 

Working schedules are usually quite flexible, however when you do work, you need to know that most decorative work takes place overnight. If you are thoroughly professional and dedicated to ensuring that your work exceeds all client expectations, then this could be the perfect role for you. Chances are you’ll also spend the whole time working with Christmas music playing!

Ice Rink staff

Are you on the hunt for an exciting and different temporary job? Working at a festive ice rink offers plenty of flexibility with schedules and there’s usually loads of overtime up for grabs! Tasks will vary, but ultimately you will be looking after customers on the ice, so you will need to be a strong skater. You will also need to have a great head for health & safety, as the safety of the visitors will be of utmost importance.

The bonus… most seasonal ice-rinks that popup during winter are usually part of some kind of alpine village which includes a bar, food and live entertainment and you will usually get a discount at these places or possibly even some freebies.

Mince Pie Chef

The average pastry chef in the Uk earns between £16k – £29k, with bonuses available of up to £3,000. So if you’ve got a cracking mince pie recipe that the world just simply needs to taste then this might be the job for you. Pastry chefs are responsible for the creation, decoration, and presentation of desserts such as cakes, pastries and pies.

Christmas Card Designer

Are you able to produce contemporary and cutting-edge designs for Christmas? You will need to be full of original ideas and thrive working in a busy studio environment. You’ll need to be passionate and able to keep up to date with the latest trends in colour and product development. Your day to day will consist of creating new designs and reformatting past successes. Sitting and designing Christmas cards all day really does seem like the dream!

Personal Shopper

Are you the kind of person who always manages to buy the exact gift that someone wanted, or went above and beyond what they’d asked for and bought them something even better? If you answered yes then you could be a personal shopper. You may find yourself working for busy families, super-rich celebrities, older people with mobility issues, department stores, corporate executives, image consulting agencies, or event planning companies. The market you work for, will dictate where you shop.You will usually work individually with your clients, who will be short on time and just need someone to take care of everything for them. The role involves you needing to get to know your clients as well as you do your family within a very short space of time. 

If you don’t want to be restrained by a typical 9-to-5 job, then this role is perfect for you! If you’re working for yourself (which is usually the case for many personal shoppers), you’ll decide your own working hours, based on the demand for your services. Starting salaries for personal shoppers are usually around £14,000 to £18,000. With experience, this can increase to between £19,000 and £23,000, while in high-end retail you’ll typically be able to command a salary of about £25,000. If you’re self-employed, you’ll be able to set your own rates, which will largely depend on your location and clientele. Generally speaking, though, you could make an average £250 for a day’s work.

2021 Is On The Way

Christmas this year has felt very different to what we’re used to due to ongoing global pandemic challenges, but 2021 is a brand new year and we’re confident that no matter what happens we’ll all pull together.

Although we don’t currently have any live roles for the job of Santa Claus, we’ve got plenty of other flexible working vacancies on our site.

From everyone at Find Your Flex, we wish you all the best and a very Happy New Year!

Article written by freelance marketer & copywriter Jessica Ross.

Categories
Careers Equality and Diversity Flexible Working Lifestyle

Equal Pay Day 2020: Women Should Not Be Working For Free

What Is Equal Pay Day?

Did you know that Equal Pay Day falls on the 20th November this year? 

Equal Pay Day is recognised each year as the day in the year when women effectively, on average, stop earning relative to men. How crazy is that?

The Fawcett Society uses the full-time mean average gender pay gap to work out the day each year, which in 2020 is 11.5%, down from 13.1% in 2019. That means that Equal Pay Day has moved 6 days later in the year, compared to 14th November in 2019. The mean gender pay gap for all employees, not just those working full-time, is 14.6% this year, down from 16.3% last year.

So while most of us spend the rest of the year essentially working for free, we thought we’d take a look at some absolute badass ladies who’ve taken 2020 and smashed it against a wall.

Kamala Harris

(Image credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Kamala Harris just wins 2020 in our opinion. She is the first woman – and the first woman of colour – to be elected Vice-President of America. Being the first to do something seems to come naturally to Harris. In 2017, she became the first South Asian-American senator in US history, and the second African-American woman elected to the senate. For countless women and girls, Harris’ achievements represent hope, validation and the shattering of a proverbial glass ceiling that has kept mostly white men perched at the top tiers of American government.

Sundas Khalid

(Image credit: Instagram @sundaskhalidd)

Sundas Khalid is a data science leader and a passionate advocate for diversity in the workplace. She leads search engine analytics at Google and participates in their IamRemarkable initiative, empowering underrepresented communities to celebrate their accomplishments. Outside of work, Sundas volunteers with organizations that promote diversity and inclusion, including Pakistani Women in Computing and North Seattle College, and provides career coaching to help people achieve their dream jobs. 

Lizzie Valedquez

(Image credit: Today.com/Wire Image)

Lizzie is an American motivational speaker, activist, author, and YouTuber. She was born with an extremely rare congenital disease called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome that, among other symptoms, prevents her from accumulating body fat and gaining weight. Her conditions resulted in bullying during her childhood. During her teenage years, she faced cyberbullying, which ultimately inspired her to take up motivational speaking. In addition to being a motivational speaker, Velasquez campaigns for awareness of online bullying, taking part in Kylie Jenner’s #IAmMoreThan project and supporting anti-bullying legislation across the United States.  

Munroe Bergdorf

(Image credit: The Guardian/Luke Nugent)

Model and transgender activist Munroe Bergdorf was featured in the 2020 100 Great Black Britons list and in September was featured on the cover of Teen Vogue. Bergdorf was hired as L’Oréal’s first-ever trans model in 2017 but was axed weeks later when the Daily Mail seized upon comments she had made as white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia and killed anti-fascism protester Heather Heyer. After L’Oreal sought to align itself with Black Lives Matter, the author and DJ lit into its “meaningless”, hypocritical show of solidarity and called out its “racist snakes”. Bergdorf told Vogue how her outcry prompted a phone call with the brand’s new president Delphine Viguier-Hovasse, who joined after she was fired, and the offer to be L’Oréal Paris’ diversity consultant.

Samira Ahmed

(Image credit: The Telegraph/Jeff Gilbert)

Taking home The Glass Ceiling Award this year. this award-winning journalist took the BBC to tribunal for being paid six times less than a male journalist hosting a similar show – and won the case in a landmark victory that could change the lives and salaries of so many in the future. Her move came after the BBC published the salaries of its highest earners in July 2017 under the terms of its new royal charter, which revealed that only one-third of the list of talent earning more than £150,000 were women, with all the top names being men.

Adwoa Dickson

Image Credit: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Women)

The Woman of The Year 2020 award was presented to the inspirational Adwoa Dickson by Lorraine Kelly, for her work with Amies Freedom Choir. The unique choir aims to develop the musical and cultural awareness of young women who have survived trafficking. It also helps them to explore songs and musical styles from each others’ cultures and languages.

Equal Pay For Everyone

In 2020 things really shouldn’t still be this bad. Equal pay should be a fundamental right and not something that women have to fight for.

Though there are some absolute trailblazers out there paving the way for the rest of us, we need to consider what we can all do to ensure that everyone is treated equally and paid fairly.

Article written by freelance marketer & copywriter Jessica Ross.

Categories
Careers Disability Flexible Working

Epilepsy And Employment

A Personal Story

Is Epilepsy A Disability?

When is epilepsy considered a disability? Epilepsy comes in many forms. Some more severe than others. According to The Equality Act 2010: “You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.” The Equality Act 2010 aims to ensure all people are treated fairly and not discriminated against. This applies to employment, school and learning, and accessing services. 

We are sharing a personal account from a member of our own team. Barbara’s working life began before The Equality Act was passed. Barbara suffers from epilepsy and wanted to share her story about how it has affected her working life.

Barbara’s Story

Diversity and Inclusion. These two words mean a lot to me and I wish that 47 years ago it had meant something to employers. Sadly in my experience it meant nothing. I suffer from Epilepsy, an invisible disability yet it certainly becomes incredibly visible when you have a seizure.

I was diagnosed with epilepsy (petit mal with grand mal fits) at the age of 17. Albeit I’d been having fits since I was 11. This coincided with the removal of my appendix. Things were very different back in the 60’s. So there I am, a 17 year old wanting to be one of the crowd. However I didn’t feel I could be. I wanted a Saturday job, to drive a car, to go out with my friends without my (fabulous) parents keeping a beady eye on me constantly. These things, which may seem normal to a lot of people, were out of reach for me.

Telling The Truth About My Epilepsy To Potential Employers

The job was the most important issue. The need to earn my own money was strong. I wanted my independence to buy those Levis or the new Cat Stevens album. I walked around my hometown going into every shop and everyone asked, was I healthy? Being honest, I felt I had no option but to tell the truth. When I told potential employers I suffered from epilepsy, the response was a resounding no. They couldn’t risk me having a fit (as they were known then) in front of people. I felt so deflated. I felt like the odd one out and I was.

Lying About My Epilepsy Got Me A Job

Not to be deterred I changed tactics. When looking for a role, I lied. I said I had no health issues. What a difference, 4 offers of jobs. I was so excited. And so I started working on a Saturday at a well known shoe shop and then the worst happened. I had a seizure whilst working. Subsequently I was hauled off to hospital (and had no memory of it) to be popped in a corner as there was nothing they could do. My parents collected me. They then had to break the news to me that I had been sacked from my role. I was sacked for not being honest and also as their customers did not want to see a member of staff having a seizure.

From a confident and outgoing teenager, I became angry and hurt. I had no understanding why my disability should prevent me from working. I wanted to be a children’s nurse. Sadly however due to my epilepsy I was not allowed. Nothing else at the time was good enough. It was really hard.

Finally An Employer Who Understood

It took me until I was 21 to find a permanent job with a company who had faith in me, despite my epilepsy. The company was ‘Clinique’ part of the Estee Lauder Group. I remember like it was yesterday them saying it was about me, not my epilepsy. Luckily I generally knew when I was going to have a seizure. I would just tell my manager, no more ambulances and hospitals.

I did not stay there forever but they gave me my confidence back. A determination to fight the discrimination against disabilities. Most of all, be proud of who I was, epilepsy and all.

Sadly as a country we had to wait until 2010 for the Equality Act. I was 54, already having battled most of my working life through discrimination. Life wasn’t all bad though, I have three fantastic children despite being told not to have any.

A Message About Inclusion To Employers

My message to employers is this. Remember, there are so many invisible disabilities and people have a right to be included in the workplace without judgement. These are strong and talented people who want a chance to have a successful career, a job they love and to be part of the team. They don’t want sympathy, they want understanding. 

Hence why flexible working is the way forward, it is the future of work. If an employee needs a different way or place to work, this should be discussed without judgement or prejudice. By embracing inclusion every employer has a lot to gain. Every disabled person has something to offer, they don’t let their disability get in their way. So don’t let employment discrimination stop them either.

Be kind, you never know what people are going through.

Barbara

Thank you Barbara for sharing your story. I’m sure many can relate when it comes to being honest about health issues with potential employers.

Diversity and Inclusion are two key components of our values here at The Find Your Flex Group. We firmly believe that flexible working and an inclusive work culture not only encourages but drives diversity. The benefits of diversity are numerous. For example higher retention rates, a bigger talent pool to recruit from, increased innovation not to mention the benefits for the individuals.

For further advice about living with epilepsy and employment:

Epilepsy.org – Employment campaign

EpilepsySociety.org.uk – Work, employment and epilepsy

Categories
Flexible Working Lifestyle

Promoting Wellness At Work With Flexible Working

Flexible Working In Business: Adapt To Survive

The year 2020 brought unprecedented challenges to our personal and professional lives. The ongoing crisis has also tested the preparedness of organisations across the globe in dealing with the employees and customers in a remote working environment. Wellness at work has always been important. Now more than ever though does it need special attention.

Understandably lots of people do not want to return to busy and unsafe trains, buses, offices and workplaces. At the same time many fear being isolated at home for months on end, and worry about the impact on their jobs.

In this article we look at the ways businesses can offer inclusive practices that don’t cost the earth. 

Wellness & Mental Health

When the coronavirus pandemic forced a large part of our workforce to embrace the WFH life, it was like a dream come true for many. However, close to six months down the line, stories of WFH burnout and lack of motivation were coming through thick and fast. So, it was only a matter of time before companies and employers began devising ways to make their employees’ new work life better.

While remote workers deal with being productive in a new setting and find new ways to connect with coworkers outside of the office, maintaining physical and mental health is becoming increasingly important. HR teams can help inspire employees to take their health as seriously as their work through effective wellness programs, but these have to adapt to the current circumstances like everything else. 

The Young Entrepreneur Council shared their best strategies for leaders looking to successfully implement wellness programs in their organisations.

Wellness In Flexible Working

The whole nature of flexible working promotes wellness at work. Being happy with your work pattern and place of work usually equates to better mental health.

There are many ways to work in 2020. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, a parent looking for something part-time or returning to the world of jobs after a career break, there really is something for everyone. So it might help you to know what types of work are actually available.

Brie Reynolds of Motherly offers a brilliant list that you can work your way through and tips on how to speak to your employer as well.

Remote work: Also known as telecommuting or working from home, this option means you may work the same hours as usual but without going into an office.

Flexible schedule: This type of flex work gives a worker the ability to shift their work hours depending on the needs of the day.

Alternative schedule: This flexible work arrangement denotes a change in schedule with set hours that aren’t necessarily traditional office hours, for example, working 6am-3pm, or 12pm-8pm.

Split shift: In this flexitime arrangement, some hours are worked earlier in the day and some later. For example, you may work a first shift from 6 am to 10 am, then a second shift from 4 pm to 8 pm, leaving core daytime hours open for parental responsibilities.

Part-time: Part-time work means a reduced schedule where you work fewer than 40 hours each week.

Compressed work week: While you’ll still clock the same number of hours per week, a compressed workweek shortens the number of days on which you work. A common setup is four days of 10 hours each. If the arrangement is company-wide, the office may be closed completely one day per week.

Spread out schedule: Consider this the inverse of the compressed work week—for example, workers could work seven days per week but only for 5-6 hours per day.

Freelance: This option allows you to work as a contractor versus as an employee, which may allow for increased flexibility but perhaps at the cost of some of the benefits of full-time employees, such as health care or unemployment insurance. If you’re considering going freelance, then Crunch has some fantastic free resources available.

Remote Communication – Tech To The Rescue

In a remote working scenario, one of the biggest challenges is keeping remote employees engaged and addressing the sense of isolation they might feel from the larger group. Communication is key to the wellbeing of remote working teams. Technology provides the tools to communicate with their peers and managers easily.

Today’s remote communication platforms offer sophisticated collaboration tools that are efficient in creating vibrant opportunities for conversations and may be considered an equivalent to everyone being in the same location, in a connected environment.

We reached out to our network to find out their most recommended communication tools for collaboration and staying in touch, so naturally we wanted to share them with you!

  • Slack features Coordinate your integrations with countless other marketing tools, Effortlessly organise your communications across channels and spaces, Use mentions and tags to communicate with your team
  • Microsoft Teams Features: Email-style threaded conversations, voice/video conferencing, team chats & private discussions, In-line animated GIFs, tabs for frequently used documents, open API, @mentions, customisable alerts, and multi-factor authentication.
  • Skype Features: Chat, conferencing, instant messaging, live/video conferencing, monitoring, receiving, reporting & statistics, SMS integration, third-party integration, and voicemail.
  • Facebook workplace Features Workplace is a communication tool that connects everyone in your company, even if they’re working remotely. Use familiar features such as Groups, Chat, Rooms and live video broadcasting to get people talking and working together.
  • Whatsapp Features Using the app in business communications removes the obstacle of making employees adapt to an unfamiliar system. Quite inadvertently, it guarantees the received messages are reviewed on a regular basis.
  • Trello features Organise tasks across boards, lists, and cards, Prioritise projects with tags and labels, Integrate with a host of other marketing platforms
  • Asana features Plan and structure your projects in logical ways, Set priorities and deadlines on tasks, Follow your projects and tasks to completion, Uncover dependencies using Gantt charts
  • Monday.com monday.com is an intuitive platform where teams can track processes and workflows, communicate within and across teams, and bring all of their tools together under one system. Its simplistic design and flexible features mean teams can get started in minutes.
  • Zoom Features: Scheduling, chat/messaging, email invitations, live/video conferencing, meeting management, screen sharing, user management, reporting & statistics, company branding, video call recording, drag & drop file sharing, and synced content library.
  • G Suite Features: Email & chat archiving, auditing & reporting, custom email address, cloud file storage, @mentions, customisable templates, file transfer, shared workspace, live / video conferencing, two-way audio & video, email tracking, instant messaging, resource allocation, to-do list, and email notifications.
  • We Transfer features Send and receive 20 GB per transfer, Create Pro pages, Deliver work with branded communications

“It Is Not the Strongest of the Species that Survives But the Most Adaptable”

– Charles Darwin 

So while the government advice changes (again), we can all be sure of one thing. 

This is the new normal. 

People are re-prioritising their lives and deciding that they want more choice in their lives, and unless businesses want to lose fantastic employees to more flexible companies, they need to adapt and evolve.

Take care of your employees and they will take care of business.

Joining workingfamilies.co.uk and #WorkLifeWeek 

Categories
Flexible Working

Making Flexible Work Work

With our recent addition of a fabulous set of career coaches to our team, Kris Thorne decided an interview with our CEO Cheney Hamilton was in order.

In this interview, Kris and Cheney explore the case for flexible working and how The Find Your Flex Group developed into the great job site and community support sites they are today.

They also discuss mid life career changes, apprenticeships, low birth rate years and the impact on a future skills shortage.

If you’d like to learn more about Kris and our other career coaches visit this page:

Career Coaches

Categories
Flexible Working Lifestyle

The Four Day Working Week

The four day week has been touted as the “new better” for the way we work and is gaining widespread traction as a consequence of the game-changing coronavirus pandemic. A FindYourFlex survey found that 72% of respondents would welcome a four day week to turbocharge the economy with 28% against. But what does this actually entail? 

What Does A 4 Day Week Mean?

There are various forms of four day week. So, the FndYourFlex Survey further asked what kind of 4 day week people preferred.

  • Compressed schedule – complete five days of work in four, with no loss of salary. 78% favoured this approach.
  • Part-time model – work for four days and receive less pay. 18% of respondents gave this the thumbs up (4% were uncommitted to either compressed or part-time).
  • 32 hour week – more radical is the proposal made by John McDonnell of the Labour Party that the full-time working week should be lowered to 32 hours but without any loss of pay. 

A universal Monday to Thursday is unrealistic as we want to visit shops, museums, sporting venues and restaurants every day of the week, and care homes and emergency services operate round-the-clock. But the idea is that people can work differently outside the traditional norm.

Why Adopt A Shorter Week?

A truncated week is cited as offering a number of advantages as it may:

  • replenish physical resources – rest and/or leisure activities revitalise us;
  • boost mental well-being – stress and anxiety fall;
  • enhance relationships – more fulfilling time is spent with family and friends;
  • save the environment – less commuting erases part of our carbon footprint;
  • jump start volunteering – charities may see an upsurge in participation;
  • stabilise employment – redundancies are avoided by having all staff on reduced hours; 
  • widen the talent pool – those shut out by rigid timings can enter the job market;
  • capture loyalty – a talent retention mechanism to stop good workers from leaving; and 
  • cut overheads – if the office is shut for an extra day, running costs decrease. 

How Controversial Is A Shorter Week?

Objections are raised against four day patterns of whatever ilk. Flex requests have been refused for myriad reasons such as impractical personnel changes, higher costs, downgraded business performance, lower customer service, and/or the need for continuity over five days. 

But it is the 32 hour week, do-four-get-five, that is stirring particular controversy. Surely it is counter-intuitive to pay someone more for working fewer hours? Yet many of us are already paid to go on holiday through remunerated annual leave. The state offers statutory parental entitlements, sometimes topped up generously by employers, essentially paying people to look after their own children for a while. This is done because there are acknowledged social and health benefits that outweigh the pure economic expense. The ask of the 32 hour week is to push this concept one step further. 

32 Hour Week – How Much Does It Cost?

The battleground of the 32 hour week is the possible price tag associated with it. The NHS is often mentioned as a problematic situation. If you pay a nurse for five days instead of four, you must hire more staff since people are ill every day. The Conservative Party claims that the costs to the NHS would swell by £6.1 billion a year. Others assert that the NHS is a special case and not the yardstick by which to judge all sectors. 

Autonomy, a non-profit organisation, has stated that the cost of the 32 hour week is lower, as bald headline figures fail to factor in the gains from beneficial features such as reduced medical absence. As the Health and Safety Executive has estimated 57% of sick days are due to work-related stress, anxiety and depression, this is not to be ignored lightly. The difficulty is that several of the advantages, outlined earlier in this article, are not easy to quantify and are contentiously debated by those who champion one assessment methodology over another. 

What Next?

The part-time and compressed four day weeks, whilst not as widespread as they could be, are progressively being offered. However, even the most ardent proponents of the 32 hours option admit that adjustments will be incremental rather than an overnight phenomenon. There are likely to be a plethora of trial runs, setbacks and resistance. It may also not be viable in every instance. 

But it is worth remembering that changes that were initially seen as radical are accepted as standard practice. The 5 day week was once novel, annual leave was viewed as rewarding indolence, and maternity leave was regarded as an unnecessary self-indulgence. Now we expect these benefits. There is the potential to herald in a whole new future.

Categories
Flexible Working Lifestyle

Why Flex About It?

When someone commented on my “tidy and uncomplicated career”, as apparently demonstrated by my LinkedIn profile, I was astonished. Whilst I was glad that my LinkedIn entries were giving a favourable impression, my life behind them was at various junctures full of twists and turns, some beneficial and others more challenging. That simple, casual aside caused me to ponder upon the role of flexibility in my own situation and the implications of flex for the workplace and society more widely.

How And Why Of Flex

“The trouble with this flexibility lark,” I was once advised, “is that it’s all about part-time for mothers.” Leaving the matter of whether flex employees merely “lark” around (we don’t), such a narrow view overlooks the myriad respects in which work and personal life can meld together. People want a variety of adaptable arrangements, regardless of their gender or parental status. 

Although I switched to part-time after the birth of my son, before that I was full-time in varying formats – remotely from home, compressed hours and staggered start/finish. The motives for doing so ranged from fracturing my foot, caring for my father who was temporarily very unwell, undertaking voluntary activities that accorded with my values, and studying for a postgraduate qualification. There were also two instances when I took sabbaticals to be an expat spouse, accompanying my husband when he was posted abroad. 

On each occasion that a dilemma arose, I worried that I would either have to discard the job I enjoyed or compromise on other equally important concerns. After all, we are more than our CVs. Fortunately, things were made easier by having a far-sighted employer who played the long game, coupled with a line manager who was a results-watcher rather than a time-and-motion monitor. When I asked my employer why there was such understanding and accommodation across the spectrum, not only for me but the majority of my colleagues, the HR specialist responded, “we get it back in spades.”

Flex For Life

Flexible working should not be confined to the trials and travails of one person – it affects all of us. With the pension age ever increasing, we are facing a career span of 50 years. With these demographics, is it really feasible to expect people to soldier on unremittingly with set-in-stone hours for half a century? This might be acceptable if life were akin to a pleasant amble on a beach but we know that, instead, events can crash upon us in huge waves and grab us in the undertow.  

As a former Chair of a legal diversity organization, I saw the attrition rate of highly trained people who walked out for the sole reason that it was impossible to find a work pattern that suited their changing circumstances. It is a dismaying waste of talent. Sadly, in many cases, even relatively minor adjustments would have swung the pendulum in a more positive direction. 

Through being a trustee of diversity and inclusion charities, I know that flexibility is required for all groups and at every stage of a person’s life. For example, grandparents need it to help care for grandchildren as much as a young person requires it for disability issues. And it is vital to remember that flex is not only an answer to difficult situations, such as dealing with illness, but is also a liberating response to optimistic aspirations, such as having more space for oneself or one’s interests.

Ripple Impact Of Flex

Should we really care whether Jill can log on from home once a week or whether Jack leaves early on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Actually, these seemingly innocuous changes have a startling domino effect. Such tweaks result in workers being motivated to continue in jobs that best utilise their talents, instead of seeking a new employer with the upheaval that brings. Oxford Economics, for example, has calculated that replacing a staff member can be as much as £30,000, taking into account factors such agency fees, advertising, interviewing, management time etc., with a major expense being the impact of disruption.

If Jill works remotely, this minimises commuting with the attendant extra cost, exhaustion and environmental pollution. Both Jack and Jill remain in gainful employment, paying the taxes that we need for schools and the NHS, and building up pensions for their long-term security. Through flex they gain a better work/life ratio and maintain their well-being, thus cutting down on sick days and medical visits. When flexibility keeps people in jobs, in health and in balance, the ripple effect means that we all win.      

Flex Update

Reflecting on this, I rewrote my LinkedIn profile so as not to photo-shop out the significance of flex to me. Without it, I could not have engaged constructively with various aspects of my life cycle – family, health, education, volunteering, living abroad. Even worse, I might have abandoned the workplace altogether and become just another disillusioned statistic fallen by the professional wayside. This is why I advocate for others to have the advantages that I had and continue to enjoy.

Now is the time to flex and flex for all.  

 

Susha Chandrasekhar

Susha Chandrasekhar
Categories
Flexible Working

Home Working And How Do It

10 Ways To Work From Home During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus is making the country take drastic measures. The aim is to preserve the safety of the vulnerable and attempt to prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed. Guess what? Home working has been fully advised where possible. 

Our team has been home working since our beginnings back in 2017, so we thought we’d share a few tips to help you on your way through this challenging time, but even for us we face the challenge of possibly having to juggle work and entertaining / teaching our kids at home too.

So here goes…

  • Plan – Spend some time just planning your work. It may feel like precious time wasted but it is totally worth it. By planning you can prioritise your work and aim to keep to a schedule. Personally I find the best time to do this is on a Friday afternoon (in an attempt to keep weekends free for family time). Make use of tools like Trello and Asana or if you prefer just use a good old diary! 
  • If you are going to be home working with your partner and have kids at home then work in shifts. We may have to accept that one takes an early shift working with an early start and then the other takes a late shift to work with a later finish, swapping over the childcare.
  • Where possible try to find your home working space. Your office, the dining table, a summer house, the bedroom just somewhere you can hopefully get some quiet time to work. Make sure that area is clear before you sit down to work.
  • If you’re flying solo with kids at home then there is no doubt it’s going to be a tough few months. Although schools aren’t yet closed, coronavirus may force them to close soon. So, accept that you are not going to be firing on all cylinders. Prioritise your work. Don’t book calls in consecutively, space them out. Avoid cabin fever by getting out for a walk at some point in the day. Don’t get hung up by mess or chores. They will get done just maybe not as quickly as you are used too.
  • Avoid social media whilst you are home working (unless you are a social media manager, then you just have to be super disciplined!). Social media can be very distracting and before you know it, you’ve wasted a significant amount of time. Turn OFF your notifications.
  • Check in with your team. Communication is key to efficient and productive home working. Preferably 3 times a week or more if you are full time. Use tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, the good old telephone and Slack to keep lines of communication open. Perhaps establish reasonable hours of the day to communicate with each other so that nobody is expected to answer a call in the evening if that is deemed unreasonable.
  • Take a break. It’s ok to take a break. Especially if you are wrestling with kids at home too. Do work in bitesize chunks where possible, try to incorporate that into your planning.
  • If you are trying to homeschool as well as home working then be realistic. You cannot possibly achieve the same output as a full time school whilst working. Break up the day into school time and work time. However it works for you, but don’t (unless you have older kids who can study with little supervision) try to do both at the same time. Stick to shorter lessons and only one or two a day. Utilise resources such as Twinkl or check out this fabulous lady and read her advice: Erin Loechner OtherGoose.com. I also saw this useful list from a facebook group that may be worth checking out.
  • BACK UP YOUR WORK REGULARLY! 
  • Make sure you are adhering to data protection and security laws. Make sure you have the latest security software installed on your device. Ensure access to your device is password protected and encrypted to prevent unauthorised access if the device is stolen, misplaced or hacked. If you’re accessing your work network whilst home working, make sure access is secure. Check with your employer that they have covered this with your team.

Coronavirus may be disrupting our day to day life but we will get through this. It’s a challenge yes, but hopefully our communities will come together and work to support one another. Look after your elderly or vulnerable neighbours. We are strong and capable and work best when we work together.

Keep up to date with the NHS latest information and guidance on Coronavirus here. NHS

If you are responsible for a team or are a business trying to make remote working work for you, then our trusted friends Ursula Tavender and Liese Lord have put together this fab resource: Get it here.

Categories
Careers Flexible Working Parental

Getting Help to Return in Manchester

Are you a parent or carer in Greater Manchester, looking to return to paid work? Are you looking for support to find flexible jobs with family friendly or carer friendly employers?

Caring, Working, Living is a Greater Manchester project that supports people with caring responsibilities who are looking to return to paid employment (Returners) to increase their confidence and self-esteem in relation to returning to paid employment, and to improve their understanding of the skills that employers are looking for.

Returners are people who have taken at least a year out of work to undertake caring responsibilities for children, or elderly or sick relatives.

Caring, Working Living can:

  • Provide information to ‘Returners’ about agencies in their local area that provide support with job search skills.
  • Provide financial support towards the cost of job searching, for example towards the cost of childcare or other care; travel to an employment support activity; interview costs such as travel or clothing.
  • Provide information about employers that are offering coffee and chats; workplace visits; work trials; placements or Returnships as part of their recruitment.

If you have any questions about the project, please contact Vicky for more information.

Email: returnersfund@gmcvo.org.uk

Phone: 0161 277 1044

Returners can refer themselves here: https://www.gmcvo.org.uk/caringworkingliving/returners

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CaringWorkingLiving