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.

Categories
Flexible Working Future of work

Flexible Working and the Four-Day Week

We all know that one of the major outcomes of the pandemic has been a surge of interest in flexible working. I’ll admit I was a bit concerned this would be a short-term blip but no, I am seeing many more jobs advertised as flexible or employers making clear they are open to remote working.

Interestingly, I had to drive to our local train the other day. Getting a parking space after 8.30am was impossible prior to the pandemic. These days there are always spaces available, a sign that many people are working from home or hybrid working.

Has Working Culture become more Flexible?

Before we get carried away thinking working culture has changed for the better, some organisations seem to be very confused about what flexible working is. Some are offering a thin veneer of flexible working when what they’re actually offering to staff is inflexible working.

Nothing demonstrates this more than the present debate about the four-day working week. There’s even a campaign group calling for a four-day, 32 hour working week with no loss of pay (you can check out its website here).

I have issues with this. Anyone with a genuine interest in flexible working should do. Why? Well, a four-day working week might mean one less day working, but in every other way it is a rigid work pattern. If someone is trying to work flexibly because they have childcare or some other caring responsibility, a four-day working week is unlikely to help much. You still have to organise childcare or fit caring responsibilities around your work hours, hours that are likely to be very rigid.

A Four-Day Week is not always Flexible

Last year, staff from Vice Media Group lobbied management for a four-day working week. When I saw the publicity photograph used to generate publicity for their campaign, I could not help but laugh. It featured a group of Gen Z Vice staff, outside of their office pulling poses that would have looked great on Instagram. I found it very hard to believe that any of them had children or any other sort of caring responsibility.

For Gen Z creatives, a three-day weekend would have meant an extra day to go on a European city-break or to go surfing. I’m not criticising Vice staff. The desire to have more leisure time is a superb reason to work a shorter week. As this poorly thought-out publicity photograph shows, however, there’s only one small demographic who were likely to benefit.

What other impacts does a Four-Day Working Week have?

A further issue with the four-day working week is that work hours often lengthen. Some employers are up-front about this and ask staff to work longer hours in return for a three-day weekend. For others, job design and workload do not change meaning people often sneakily work during the weekend or evenings to keep on top of things.

This, of course, is probably the biggest issue with the four-day working week. In many respects it is based on presenteeism, not outputs. If a particularly efficient employee can complete all their tasks in three days by cutting out the commute and working from home, why not let them work that way?

A further fear of mine is how a four-day working week could impact on gender equality. My concern is that employers will be much more open to female employees working a four-day week on the assumption they have family commitments. This simply reinforces unhelpful gender stereotypes: i.e. men’s correct place is the workplace and for women it’s the home.

A Four-Day Week is just one form of Flexible Working, it won’t suit everyone

A four-day working week should only be one option available in the flexible working mix. For some people it will be the correct approach, but it simply does not work if you impose it on all employees. Employers also need to be very clear about whether staff will be working compressed hours or if they work 32 hours a week and they need to be extra careful about reinforcing gender stereotypes.

Oh, and one further interesting point. Back in 2017, Vice published an article headlined: A 4-Day Work Week Isn’t Necessarily Better For You. It actually makes for a very interesting and balanced read. Isn’t it ironic that it was published by the very people now lobbying to adopt this method of working?

Of course, a Four-Day week is not the only form of flexible work that has been overly focused on by businesses since the pandemic. Hybrid working has been largely looked at by businesses as the only form of flexible working that is necessary. But take a look at why this is not the case and why Hybrid isn’t always flexible.

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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
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!

Categories
Equality and Diversity Flexible Working Lifestyle Mental Health

Dogs Do Good

Why dogs can end isolation and create accessible employment opportunities for the disabled community.

Did you feel lonely, isolated or even a bit ‘stir crazy’ during the last 16 months of the pandemic?

How many of you succumbed to buying a dog as an incentive to get out of the house or just for a good, old cuddle – in these more isolated times?

Whether you’ve found it to be a positive or a negative working from home, we’re all agreed that we feel lucky to be employed after the last 18 months of increase unemployment, recruitment freezes and furlough – all creating an atmosphere of uncertainty about what our economic futures hold.

We can now have a more compassionate understanding of how it must feel to be disabled (whether visibly disabled or invisible).

You can’t take for granted that you’ll have opportunities to live as you’d like, are often cut off from community or work opportunities and can face length periods of loneliness.

Of the 8.4 Million people of working age (16-64) registered as disabled in the UK, only 53.6% are in employment.

Whilst this was an increase year on year (in Oct-Dec 2020), it is still lower in comparison to those who don’t have a disability, with just 18.3% non-disabled people being unemployed – a whopping 35% difference.

As you’d imagine, Covid certainly hasn’t helped matters.

The proportion of disabled people who are either unemployed or economically inactive has risen from 45.9% to 47.7% this year.

That’s over 4 Million people in the UK whose mental health, self-esteem and contact with the outside world, has likely been compromised, by factors completely outside of their own control.

The link between employment and improved self-esteem has long been documented: Unemployment and Mental Health

As this analysis from the Health Organisation points out, unemployment and mental health is bio-directional.

When you have positive mental health, it boosts your employability.

When your employability declines, your mental health can decline and depression and anxiety often appear as financial stresses take their unfortunate toll.

As many of us may have experienced a job loss, loss of earnings, or even just fallen privy to more financial instability during the last 18 months, hopefully we will have more empathy for anyone that’s disability has prevented them from joining the UK workforce and participation in the economy.

This is where Dogs for Good come in.

If your empathy can translate into wanting to take action, maybe as an Employer you could see how we can right some wrongs via the Dogs for Good corporate sponsorship programmes?

Dogs for Good provide assistance dogs to their service users and clients.

Their furry friends literally help revolutionise lives.

Take this story about how Eider has helped Heather go back to work:

Charitable fundraising has been hit hard in the last 18 months by the pandemic and Dogs for Good are no exception.

They’ve suffered a 25% decrease in voluntary income, as face to face fundraising and their usual ‘Challenge’ events have obviously had to be postponed.

In 2020 they qualified 17 new dogs as Assistance dogs – which is only 1/3 of what they had planned for the year.

Plus COVID’s caused an additional challenge – how to support their clients with social distancing measures in place.

Many of DFG’s clients have reported that the long periods of isolation have had a detrimental impact on their mental wellbeing and a further loss of confidence.

While people with assistance dogs have reported that their pet became even more invaluable as a real ‘lifeline’, Dogs for Good have also had to help the dogs themselves, who have suffered by being more confined to ever-shrinking local areas, due to the stricter social distancing guidelines in the first and second waves especially.

Dogs for Good have a waiting list of over 5,000 people enquiring about support dogs.

A dog would enable them to live the best version of their life possible, with far more independence, confidence and open a world of new opportunity.

This year they need to raise £3 million to fund the running and development of the training and facilitation programmes needed to help their amazing clients get back into their communities and back into employment.

Dogs for Good offer a range of corporate sponsorships starting from as little as £1,000 and more bespoke partnerships can be created.

If you have a Corporate Fundraising scheme at work and you’d like to participate in an annual scheme – the Puppy Partnership is £5,000 per year.

Your company can embark (pun embarrassingly intended) on a 12-month relationship with DFG, that will see “your puppy” go through training and socialise with their new ‘family’…. And yes I am blubbing while typing this.

Your company can even name the Puppy – one of the most ethical and brilliant forms of “product placement” I’ve come across this year.

Plus, it’s a really nice opportunity to have a wellbeing boost, amongst your Team.

Who doesn’t love knowing they’re contributing to improving people’s lives? Who doesn’t love getting pictures of dogs?

DFG will send your company regular updates on how the new partnership is going.

Plus, if you happen to help support someone back into employment through your Puppy Sponsorship, your team will ‘KNOW’, they’ve contributed massively towards helping level the playing field when it comes to reducing the number of disabled people in unemployment.

While we appreciate requests for fundraising are at all-time high, those of us working in the HR and recruitment space understand how vital it is, we help mobilise the disabled work force.

In fact, we believe that dogs and technology, (not necessarily our politicians unfortunately), present the best opportunity to change so many people’s lives for the better over the coming years.

We just need a bit of support from You – our friends working within our UK businesses.

Let’s all help benefit society and the economy by making employment accessible to as many people as possible.

Let’s focus on everyone’s ability, not their disability.

This really is the Future of Work we need to see.

A dog really is a friend for life and an actual lifeline for so many.

Get involved today and let’s make Change for Good, with Dogs for Good.

Categories
Careers Flexible Working Output Recruitment

The 3 Ts of Productivity – Task, Time and the One that Everyone Forgets About

We generate endless to-do lists for our work and personal lives.

Tasks are logged.

Calendars ensure we do not embarrassingly double book. The latest apps are available with features to mark milestones and keep us on track.

So why are we not always as efficient as we could be? Because tasks and time are not the only part of the productivity mix.

The missing ingredient

We overlook the element that smashes our procrastination, slays our negative thoughts and rejuvenates our weariness. Louis Pasteur, whom we have to thank for immunizations and pasteurized milk, once stated,

Let me tell you the secret that has led to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.

Tenacity is the incredible ability to carry on in the face of challenges, the force that brings us our hard-won triumphs. If the road seems endless and we are running on empty, it is the stubbornness to persist that’s the real driver of success. But the problem with tenacity is that we do not have it all of the time. Levels fluctuate and sometimes erratically.

What eating radishes teaches us

There is no limitless well of tenacity in the same way that there is no infinite source of energy (we all need to sleep).

In the now infamous cookie test, Roy Baumeister placed two groups of volunteers in a room with a batch of tempting, delicious-smelling cookies and some radishes. One group could eat the yummy cookies whilst the other could only munch on the tangy and comparatively less satisfying veg. After a while, the volunteers were given complex tests. The group that had to resist the cookies gave up on problems more easily.

The take-away from this experiment, asserts Baumeister, is that the radish participants used up a part of their store of mental energy in resisting the sweet treats. Their willpower or tenacity was depleted.

A state of mind and a muscle

Tenacity may be seen not solely a state of mind to be summoned at will but a muscle that, when over-used, gets tired and drained. This is a factor that impacts on the productivity of one’s work and personal life. So, what changes can be made?

Top 5 techniques to turbocharge your tenacity

1. Goal focus – It’s inevitable that we have to face up to energy zapping tasks. You may need to chase invoices – again. Despondency sets in. But think instead that this is just one more step to your objective of having as successful business. When things can get dreary, overarching goals are motivators. Seeing the bigger picture will help you get through the smaller, arduous tasks.

2. What is this costing me? – you may put off tasks or do them slowly or less effectively. Ask yourself what this approach is costing you. Energy? Time loss? An unhappy state of mind? Is this the way you want things to be? In order to avoid these negativities, a tenacity boost can perk you up. Sticks are as much motivators as carrots.

3. Flexibility – flexible working has myriad advantages and one of these is being able to fit in your work around your mood. You can move tasks around when you are best able to do them or when you have the most energy to go full pelt. Reschedule for potential.

4. Learn from the past – Think back to all those times when you felt you couldn’t do something but did it anyway. What were the triggers that kept you going? Consider the qualities that you demonstrated at that point and heed them. Those characteristics have not disappeared, even though it feels that way sometimes, and they are still a part of you. Think about your qualities.

5. Quick fixes – There are various ways to encourage tenacity to take root even if you feel overwhelmed. Practising mindfulness soothes a jittering mind. Relaxation techniques ease tension out of the body and they only take a few minutes. A short but brisk cardio-pumping walk cracks stagnation. Devise your own tenacity playlist and turn up the volume on music that is pitch perfect for you.

Does it really work in practice?

From the whole Find Your Flex team, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes!”. We operate completely flexibly and are encouraged to engage when suits us best. We adopt an output based attitude rather than concentrating on set hours and rigid employment structures. This is an empowering approach for us all to reach our targets but in our own personal and most effective way. We have tried it and we can say that it works.

Your mental power tool is tenacity

Task and time remain the building blocks for effective diary management. You absolutely need to define what needs to be done and how long it will take – especially if you are charging yourself and your skills out to make a profit. Nonetheless it is possible to alter your mindset to give it a boost and replenish your reserves.

To enhance your own “Output” and to get more out of your day, use ways to tap into your tenacity.

It is an oft forgotten innate power tool – One that you can use to drill deep for success.

Categories
A Day In The Life Of... Careers Flexible Working Future of work

A Day in the Life Of a Founder and CEO: Alex Tomchenko

Alex is the Founder and CEO of Glambook; an all-in-one platform created to aid beauty professionals grow their budding businesses. Alex has an extremely positive and forward-thinking outlook on the life of a CEO. He highlights how much time, dedication and hard work it takes to build a thriving business. While also pointing out the need to decompress when you can and leave business at the door and make time for yourself. 

Alex also has some unique views on the meaning of progress and how transferable skills can be used to help build a brand. He also points out the importance of utilizing fresh talent prepared to soak up new ways of doing things and how this can be more beneficial to growing businesses than recruiting based on experience. This is definitely a mindset geared toward the future of working and we are excited to learn more about Alex and his working life as a Founder and CEO.   

What does a working day look like for a Founder & CEO?

I wake up at 7:00am and after a nutritious breakfast I start checking my inbox and messages. We meet with the team at 9:00am to help us align on priorities and set up the tone for the day. Before lunch, I’m focused on monitoring our results and growth and take a few more business meetings. After lunch, I spend time on mapping out business goals and tasks, aligning on workflow and hosting additional meetings. Towards the end of the day, I look at our daily progress and that helps me identify our goals and tasks for the next day. I go to bed at 11:30pm.

How do you find a work life balance?

To be honest, it’s not easy to strike a perfect work and life balance during the growth stage of a startup. What helps is that I work on something that I’m truly passionate about and I do it together with my wife, who is my co-founder. While we don’t have a strict schedule that divides our business and personal lives, we manage to find time for both. Usually, we are busy with work during the day and late evenings are reserved for things not related to business.

Are there opportunities to progress?

Progress is an important part of life. However, progress doesn’t necessarily mean doing something new. Often, it’s finding a new way to do something. At Glambook, we’re doing just that, finding a way to transition the beauty industry into the digital space. I’m a believer that opportunities for progress are always here and they will always be available.

What is the best part about being Founder & CEO?

The best part of my job is to have freedom to create a product the way you envision it. To create a product that will bring value to your users. If you can’t find something that works for you, you can create it. During my 13+ years spearheading a digital marketing agency, I gained valuable experience in promoting and growing other people’s products, so now I am fortunate to have an opportunity to finally use those skills and experience to build and grow my own product.

Is there a difficult part to your job?

Challenges help you have a different perspective, think outside of the box and look for alternatives, which means constant growth and development. I’m not a big fan of formalities – to have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting, or create documents for the sake of having them, so I prefer to focus on things that matter, bring value and make a process more meaningful.

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

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. This is something I’ve learned the hard way during my time at the digital marketing agency. It’s a much smoother and easier task to bring a beginner up to speed than trying to ask an established expert to re-learn and do things differently. An established professional may already have their own point of view and past experiences that prevent them from seeing a full picture. For someone who is just starting out in a new industry, there’s a much higher chance of being successful. Be curious, goal-oriented and motivated by the project you’re about to kick off. As the saying goes, if you’re trying to do the impossible, do it with people who don’t know that this is impossible.

THANK YOU TO ALEX FOR SHARING HIS INSIGHTS AS A FOUNDER AND CEO WITH US!

These were some amazing and unique insights from Alex, who shows us what it means to have the entrepreneur mindset, having not only the passion to create something unique but also to keep your eye on the future. Alex showcases a forward-thinking mindset, highlighting the fact that experience isn’t everything and if you do have experience, it is important to be flexible in your approach to different aspects of business. A refreshing take on the working life of a Founder and CEO! Alex also made the point of how his skills in marketing were transferable when creating his own product and business, which is something all of our readers should consider. We hope you enjoyed reading all about Alex’s amazing and interesting work life!

For other takes on the working life of a Founder and CEO why not have a read of A Day in the Life Of a Founder and CEO: Alex Bozhin.

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