Ok, you may not have all those factors happening at once but even one of them coupled with a poorly child is enough to challenge the work/life balance juggling act to its limits.
That’s the situation I found myself in a couple of weeks’ ago but managed to work through it in a flexible way…..
I’m quite fortunate in that when I took a job with Wiltshire council in 2013, I negotiated a home based contract. This recognised the fact that I live in Taunton (Somerset) and commuting every day to Trowbridge (Wiltshire) or another one of the council’s 3 “hubs” (Salisbury, Chippenham) would both be logistically difficult with a young family and costly. This doesn’t mean to say I can spend 5 days working from home but on average I’m on the train 2 to 3 days a week (good connections, faster than driving and allows me to work on the go). I am set up to work from home in a virtual office…broadband, phone (both landline and mobile), laptop and can connect virtually into meetings via Lync which provides video/telephone conferencing as well as an instant messaging service. No doubt about it, having the right technology does help me to work as flexibly as I do.
So how did I work through the poorly child/’got to do a full day’s work’ scenario? Instead of going into the office, I worked from home that day, used Lync to connect into meetings remotely (this included a meeting I was chairing) and did my hours in a way that fitted around caring for my daughter. This meant catching up in the evening and throughout the rest of the week. My manager was fully supportive because she trusts me to get on with it and my colleagues at work who were in those meetings understood.
Having worked for other similar organisations ichn the region, the council’s approach to flexible working is second to none. It’s part of their DNA. By flexible, I don’t just mean being able to take time back if you’ve worked excess hours (although that is part of the policy), I also mean doing your working hours to fit around emergencies, the school play, parents afternoon or other important events in the ‘life’ bit of the work/life balance equation!
It’s less about presenteeism and more about delivering by outcomes; my performance is not measured by how many times I’m at my desk (home or office) but what I actually deliver. I feel trusted to get on and do my job.
However, I just need to get this bit in here: the amount of flexibility is obviously dependent on the nature and type of work you do….I wouldn’t want to pretend that a social worker or customer services employee would get the same flexibility that I’ve described but managers do try and accommodate individual needs as much as the business can allow. There’s a willingness in Wiltshire to work in this way and that’s the important bit for me. It’s worth its weight in gold as an employer attribute when I’m at a time in my life where I may need that extra flexibility – because of this I feel valued and motivated to give back. So it’s definitely a benefit for me and a benefit for the organisation who is getting the very best from be….winners all round!