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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
Business Careers Lifestyle Parental

Is Career Coaching as Good as Therapy?

Most people hit a rough patch at a certain point in their lives and they feel lost, overwhelmed, and confused.

The pressure of such a slump additionally magnifies if you’re an entrepreneur who has to run a business and make tough decisions on a daily basis. No wonder that many business owners have too much on their plate, which leads to stress, anxiety, and depression.

A research study has shown that 72% of entrepreneurs are affected by mental health issues directly or indirectly.

But, regular employees also have their fair share of stress resulting from work. A highly competitive workplace paired with increased expectations

If we add a kid or two to this entire equation, it’s perfectly clear that working mothers and mompreneurs have an even greater deal of workload, stress, and pressure to handle. Moreover, if growing pains of your business and your kids coincide, you’ll most probably end up exhausted and completely drained.

One way out of this is seeking professional help, but it can be a bit confusing when it comes to choosing between career coaching and therapy.

That’s why it’s important to discuss the benefits of these two approaches and establish which one can do the trick.

Career Coaching vs Therapy?

The thing is that, although similar and partially overlapping, these two fields are intrinsically different. It’s true that your career represents a big part of your life, and as such has the power to affect your mental health to a great extent. 

In other words, you might even consider taking up both a career coach and a therapist to work on different aspects of your personal and professional life.

The main distinction between career coaching and therapy lies in the fact that the former helps you manage your career and its challenges regardless of how deep it tackles the issue. On the other hand, the main goal of therapy is to improve your mental health and resolve some underlying issues that have been bothering you.

Also, while therapy might take years, as it’s essential to unearth and uncover some hidden negative thought patterns, career coaching can be time-limited and focused on practical work. A career coach can help you develop the necessary skills for job search, learn more about your strengths, and deal with workplace issues.

Benefits of Career Coaching

Now that we’ve established that you can greatly benefit from both career coaching and therapy, let’s examine what individual advantages of both approaches are.

  • Career coaching will help you recognize your own professional value. This can be pretty challenging, as people sometimes aren’t sure what their actual professional worth is, especially after losing their job or having been rejected after numerous job interviews. Similarly, going back to work after maternity leave can be more difficult than people imagine. Maybe the company you work for underwent some changes while you were away, not to mention that many new moms feel anxiety over what they are returning to. Career coaching will offer you an insight into what your particular skill sets and abilities are, and help you articulate them properly while negotiating a job or salary. Also, with proper coaching, you’ll learn how to leave your fears aside and focus your energy on your job and caring for your baby.
  • With career coaching, it will be much easier to overcome the difficulties of a change or make some big decisions. For example, if you’re wondering whether it’s the right time to quit your 9-to-5 job and embark on an entrepreneurial journey, a career coach will point you in the right direction.
  • One of the most important purposes of career coaching is to keep you accountable and motivated, as well as to push you to reach your full potential. Your career coach will monitor your progress towards reaching your goals, keep things in check, and make sure that you’re following your plan. This way, the likelihood of straying from your career path is minimized.
  • It’s essential to make the right career choices and pick what’s best for you in the long term, and a career coach will take both your personality, professional skills, and wishes into consideration when helping you navigate the workplace landscape and your own career path.

Benefits of Therapy 

Even if you’re not facing some life-altering challenges or traumatic events, the truth is that all of us could use a little help and support when it comes to coping with everyday stress and everything that life throws at us.

Research studies have shown that even the act of verbalizing your feelings can have a therapeutic effect on your brain. The power of this simple tactic is multiplied if you’re talking to a professional who is trained to listen to your story and help you articulate, channel, and manage your feelings.

Sometimes our own personal issues prevent us from succeeding, which means that it’s essential to fix them before you can see any career improvement.

Therapy can be highly beneficial for some of the following workplace situations:

  • Help you cope with workplace-related stress and anxiety. If you feel that you’re headed for burnout or that your current job situation is making you feel miserable, it’s a good idea to talk to a therapist and see what you can do to improve it.
  • Asking for a raise. Although a career coach can be instrumental in helping you get the best deal, a therapist can work from another, deeper level, and remove certain mental barriers that prevent you from talking to your boss. If you’re too shy or can’t accept rejection, therapy is essential, while you can figure out the right script and other details with a career coach.
  • Dealing with an office bully. Not everyone can confront a toxic person without getting upset. Therapy can help you build a defense mechanism and muster up the courage to have your say clearly and loudly.
  • Improve your self-esteem. All the issues mentioned above stem from the lack of self-esteem. By understanding your own feelings bringing out your insecurities out in the light, you can work towards becoming more confident in yourself. This is particularly effective if you’ve lost confidence over your work performance and skills – which is nothing strange if you are away for a while on maternity leave. If you start drowning in self-doubt, you should remember that it’s probably just your hormones and fatigue speaking, and therapy will help you learn coping and relaxation mechanisms.

So, Is Career Coaching as Good as Therapy? 

It’s better to ask yourself which one of these two professionals you should hire in order to improve your life.

You might even decide that working with both will help you grow personally and professionally.

What’s the most important factor is, however, finding a career coach who’s keeping pace with the latest trends in psychology and the workplace. That should be a person who’s capable of guiding you towards becoming the best version of yourself.

Here’s what you should pay attention when choosing a career coach: 

  • Do they belong to a coaching organization? This will prove that they meet certain standards of the profession.
  • Ask them for their resume or professional biography, so that you can check whether the program they completed in order to obtain a certificate is legitimate.
  • Even if a certain career coach has a license to practice psychotherapy, it’s better to find some other practitioner to treat your potential mental health issues. It should be stressed that these two approaches work great in conjunction – just make sure to distinguish your sessions and work on your mental/business goals separately.
  • Ask for client references. You should talk to some of the people they worked with and understand why their approach is effective. In a nutshell, it’s not enough to simply read testimonials on the site.
  • Discuss their coaching philosophy. As career coaching, just like therapy, is a delicate matter, it’s essential to find someone whose values and philosophy are aligned with yours.

It’s safe to say that career coaching is as good as therapy, but by no means can we say that these two practices can be used interchangeably, or that one can be used instead of the other. Depending on what you want to work on and improve, you can choose either career coaching or therapy, but these two also form a powerful synergy.

Michael has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a huge range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael’s work at Qeedle.

Categories
Flexible Working Lifestyle

WASPI Women.

I am one of those WASPI women.

Some of you may ask what one of those is. Sadly, in my case it is not an older, slim and gorgeous Helen Mirren type!!

A WASPI woman is a lady who reached their state pension age and sadly had their pension taken away from them with basically no warning.  How wrong you may all cry and then move on to the next article.

The reason it is so wrong, is that most of us did not have the time to put extra money in place to cover for what, for me, will be a 6 year shortfall.

I am not saying that I would have retired or even could have retired.

After 45 years of working I have paid my dues, including bringing up 3 children and never claimed benefits. Is this right or proper, I would question and my answer always comes back as a resounding NO.

I loved my years working. I was always in recruitment and HR though now due to personal health issues I find myself on the scrapheap fighting with the system, as no one wants to take a chance on this alleged old lady, which trust me, is no fun. 

I don’t have a fabulous trust fund or pot of gold (I have been chasing those rainbows!). So I have to work, as most people who are reading this will have to and your retirement date sadly will get further away the younger you are.

Trust me, plenty of us 60 plus ladies have a lot to give to the workplace, although we are often overlooked.

We don’t want to be the CEO anymore, or have the top job, we just want to work because we HAVE TO and in some cases want to!! We all added value when we were in the workplace, we can still do that – believe me.

So when you think about flexible working, don’t think part time think FLEXIBLE, think WASPI women. We are more than capable of adding huge value to your organisation.

I am lucky that Cheney Hamilton @ FindYourflex could see the value in me and my transferable skills.

So what I wanted to say to employers out there, is try looking beyond the usual recruitment paths, there is a wealth of experience out there and everyone needs to be valued.

See our years of experience and dedication, see our skills – NOT our age.

Barbara Ford , WASPI Account Executive, FindYourFlex.

Categories
Lifestyle Parental

My Dad, voted HouseWife of the year in the late 80’s

Whilst the rest of the world has transformed over the last 38 years, accepting Dad’s as full-time parents hasn’t, and neither has the way the Government perceive Shared Parental Leave. So, let’s stop giving allowances to the rich, and start giving equality to parents.

38 Years Later And No (real) Change

I was born In September 1980 and my parents had made a decision that my Dad would be the ‘stay-at-home’ parent whilst my Mum worked and continued to develop her career.  This worked for them, and based on what I know now, took some courage to do, but a lot of society was, and it appears still is, uncomfortable when it comes to Dad’s being the ones to stay at home.

For me, it was normal, and it continued until my younger sister started primary school.  I have a half-brother from my Dad’s first marriage, but in the family home, there was myself, my younger brother (18 months my junior) and my younger sister (3 years my junior). 

As a slight aside at this point, my brother and I were not what you would call planned my sister however was.  And you might think that any parents would be out of their mind to actually choose to have three children under three, however there was a reason.  At the time, and seemingly totally acceptable in the early 80’s, my Mum was told that if she wanted her promotion and was planning on having any more children, she should complete her family quickly so as not to hinder her career progression – and so my sister came along soon after.

And so, my Dad was at home with three young children and my Mum went out to work.  As a child, this was our normal.  I don’t remember thinking anything of it until I was seven and we moved back to my Mum’s hometown of Peterborough.  Before we moved, I remember my Dad volunteering at the nursery, and then walking me to school.  I remember our conversations with the lollipop lady at the school crossing and that I went to Paul’s house after school (a childminder where I had egg sandwiches almost every day and my Mum would pick me up on her way home from work).

A Stereotypical Gender Role Reversal

My Dad worked part-time in a local pub to help with some of the money as well as helping out at the nursery.  It was very much a stereotypical gender role reversal compared to most families.  The only thing I ever remember as being ‘different’ was walking across the road every morning to the house on the corner to have my bum length chocolate brown hair plaited, or ponytailed by a neighbour – my Dad had never gotten used to the hair, which probably explains why my sisters was never even when we moved to Peterborough.

When I started primary school, I was in top reading sets, and would often get cornered by parents at birthday parties who would quiz me about my reading level.  By year two in Mrs Samuel’s class I was on books from higher years.

My Dad’s focus was on the three of us instead of washing breakfast or lunch dishes, something I remember always being an argument when my Mum walked in from work whilst I watched Lassie and Gentle Ben.

But by the time we started school we could all read, write, do basic times tables and basic adding.  We knew our complete alphabet and could tie our shoes.  Dad made a shoe from cardboard and tied laces through it to help make it easier than actual shoes.

Given that three children and one salary was quite expensive, my Dad would make my Mum ‘presents’ from wooden lolly stick and he would burn messages to my Mum in them using my Grandads wood burning kit.  He would also write poems to cereal and chocolate companies and we would receive gifts and treats by way of pens, cereal bowls, cereal boxes and boxes full of chocolate as a reward for my Dad’s ingenuity.

This was life, this was our life and perhaps given my age, the comments and looks that I noticed as I grew older, were there, but I was just too young to realise.  But I don’t recall anything being abnormal until I was seven and we moved.

And Then We Noticed We Were Different…

We moved to Peterborough in the summer holidays on 1987. I was seven just a week into my new school and our new life, my younger brother was also at school.

This was when I noticed people asking why my Dad walked me to school every day.  He continued to work at the local nursery as he had before we moved and so many of the parents got to know him early on.  He also when my sister also started school would work as a lunchtime supervisor, a ‘dinner-lady’ and the kids would call him ‘Miss’, until my Dad convinced them all to call him Barrie.

And all of a sudden, all of the kids knew Barrie. All of the kids would wave at him and run over to say hello if they saw my Dad whilst we were out and about – but sometimes I would get asked what was wrong with my Dad and why didn’t he work.  I didn’t know how to respond to this – I didn’t know what they were getting at.

My Dad cooked dinner every-day and it was ready on the table every night when my Mum came in.  I remember arguments when my Mum came in late as we weren’t allowed to eat until she came home, but we would have to sit at the table from the time it was ready.

Housewife Of The Year

My Dad was the disciplinarian, the homestay, and my Mum the breadwinner.  My Dad won ‘housewife of the year’ in the late 80’s and the full page spread in our local newspaper of my Dad with the vacuum in the living room, got even more people talking. 

They say that yesterday’s news becomes tomorrow’s chip paper, but everyone seemed to remember this in our local community.  Barrie the housewife was a well-known celebrity in the local community, and even now the Swingler children are remembered by many teachers.

As the three of us got older, my Dad did a bit more locally. He was Chair of the lone parent advisory service given his organisation skills, he took on more duties at church, and at nursery, and at lunchtimes. This was our life.  He studied when my parents could afford it and when my sister was older, and it made financial sense, my Dad went into a full-time job. However, he hated it but it was what was needed.

In 1999, my parents moved house and when I was visiting one day I was in the kitchen talking to my Dad and a young child fell off their bike in front of their house.  I thought my dad would fly out of the front door – but his reaction was one of stillness with a sadness in his eyes.  Nobody in this new area knew Barrie, and the last thing he would want is to be accused of something untoward by a child he didn’t know.

Not A ‘Real Man’

But this was my Dad.  This was Barrie the housewife, the dinner-lady and the nursery teacher, but not in this new area.  He knew what people had thought about a man who spent so much time with young children whilst his wife went to work, and whilst I knew we shouldn’t talk to strangers, my Dad had never been the stranger.

And at that time, we had a frank conversation about some of the comments that had been made about him for being the one to stay at home.  He had been referred to many times as not being a ‘real man’, simply because real men didn’t stay at home. He had been asked about why he and wife decided this on this strange arrangement and what his motives were for spending so much with kids. 

But he had done what he could to fit around looking after the three of us whilst keeping himself busy and earning a bit of pocket money – the same as any mum may do in the same position.  And I felt more grateful for the way we had been brought up.

2005 And Not Much Has Changed

In 2005 I met a HRD I had been speaking to for quite some time and over coffee she told me she had an ‘odd thing going at home’ – of course I got curious.  By ‘odd’ she meant, that as the main breadwinner she worked, and her husband stayed at home with the kids – we talked a lot about my own experience and how I didn’t find it odd at all.  She shared the tough conversations, the looks and comments that she had her husband got, and the advances that her husband got frequently when he naively thought he was just going on a playdate with the kids.

2019, It’s Slightly Better But Still Dad’s Still Face Stigma For Being A Stay At Home Dad

It’s now 2019, and from what I heard at #TheBigConversation, the judgement of at home Dad’s or those families that split these duties, are still seen as odd – why is parenting odd?  It’s been happening for a very, very long time.

There is nothing odd in Dad’s looking after their children, but whilst I still hear people talking about Dad’s babysitting their kids on nights when the Mums are out – its culture and stereotypes that have to change. 

The Role Of Shared Parental Leave In Challenging Gender Stereotypes

Two of my coaching clients have embraced shared parental leave and it’s ended with the Mum’s going back to work and the Dad’s staying at home.  It works for them, but the comments and the looks continue.

My older brother and his partner are embracing shared parental leave, my sister-in law is taking six months off work and my brother the next three months.  It is normal, yet lots of people assume it’s laziness on his part.  Anyone who has been at home with a six-month-old knows there is nothing lazy about it, and we certainly wouldn’t say that to any Mum.

I don’t have an answer, but I can say, that my stereotype of genders growing up was that we are equal – my view of the world is different to a lot of people I know.  And if that’s all that comes out of Dads being at home, then even that would make it worth it.

But the reality, is that whatever is right for you and your family, is the reality you create for your kids.  Thus, whatever is right for your kids shouldn’t be questioned or judged by anyone else.

As a working Mum I’ve had my fair share of judgement myself – and to be frank it is none of any else’s business what I choose to do, and it’s also none of my business what anyone else thinks of me.

Because whilst the rest of the world has transformed over the last 38 years, accepting Dad’s as full-time parents hasn’t, and neither has the way the Government perceive Shared Parental Leave.  So, let’s stop giving allowances to the rich, and start giving equality to parents.

Now Is The Time For Change

So, my plea, let’s encourage parents to be with their kids and play an active role. Society needs to stop eye rolling the Dads who are at home and the Mum’s who are at work.  Let’s stop looking at the Dad’s like unemployed bums and accept their role as parents.  Parents, parent your own way, in whatever way you choose. Let’s turn our attention to our own families and what’s right for us.

Kelly

Author, speaker, coach, rebel and heart-centred people leader, Kelly is changing the world of work and helping HR professionals do things differently and add more value.

Founder and Rulebreaker at The Chrysalis Crew, she rips up the rule book and helps people create what’s best for them, their teams and their organisations – not what’s best for their competitors.

She’s Mum to twin sons and step-Mum to two sons – a busy home, a busy business and a busy life, but one that’s totally worth it.

Categories
Lifestyle

Top 6 Wellbeing Apps

The Wellbeing Apps You Can Do Every Day

Wellbeing apps can provide an easy, quick way to work in mindfulness, exercise and training into busy lifestyles. Our bodies and minds are key to functioning at a happier and more productive level. A healthy mind needs to co exist with a healthy body for all round wellbeing.

Here are our top picks from wellbeing apps for ios and android on the market today.

Calm – Meditation and Sleep

This wellbeing app is for reducing stress and encouraging meditation. It’s an all round winner in the reviews.  4.7 / 5 from 74.4K Ratings on ios. Complete bitesize meditations or longer sessions to really find your focus. Learn the skill of meditation, get more restful sleep and watch videos on mindful movements and gentle stretching and listen.

Headspace Meditation & Sleep

Think calmer, happier and relaxed. This app focuses on helping you train your mind and body through relaxation and mindfulness. 4.8 / 5 from over 179K reviews on ios.

Seven – 7 Minute Workout

Yes, just 7 minutes. No fancy equipment needed. Simple but effective workouts that can be squeezed into a busy schedule. Start the day with a burst of energy or shaking off the stresses of the day early evening. This wellbeing app gains 4.7 / 5 from 25.2K reviews

Peak – Play Smarter

The wellbeing app to challenge your brain. Give your brain a regular workout and keep those grey cells active. Neuroplasticity is a concept that believes your brain health can be weakened and strengthened. Using your cognitive skills regularly helps to strengthen your brain. So don’t just train your body, train your brain too for optimal health. This app gains 4.7 / 5, from 93.6K ratings.

One You Couch To 5K – Running for beginners

A flexible programme to work around one of the flexible jobs on our jobs board! Work up to running 5k at your own pace at a time that suits you. Works alongside your favourite music player automatically dipping the volume so you can hear instructions.

Breethe: Sleep & Meditation

Guided meditations to help you destress and sleep better in bitesize sessions. Inhale happiness with Breethe. Also features a full 12-week daily program to learn to meditate and progressively bring more calm and clarity into your life. Scoring 4.8 / 5, from 22K ratings.

Now you’re feeling ready to take on the world with your optimism and healthy mind, search for your next flexible working role on our jobs board.

Maybe you need some help with writing your CV…Check this article out.

Need some tips for refocusing and getting back on track? Then read 11 Ways To A Positive Mind.