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  • Anya Smirnova

Flexible working: dos and don'ts

What you need most as a working parent is flexibility, or agility. The agility of mindset and flexibility of time.

Read about the mindset agility in this article. Today I want to focus on the flexibility of time and flexible working as its most impactful tool. Two most common reasons for which parents consider flexible working are:

  • Work-life balance: spending more time with the kids, more time for yourself or a side project.

  • Childcare needs.

Top concerns my flexible work coaching clients raise are:

  • How to decide what I want?

  • What to put in the application form?

  • If I cut my hours, I will end up doing 100% of the work for reduced pay.

So here is my digest of Dos and Don'ts. Don't go back to the pre-kids working mindset. As new parents, we tend to think that we "should" return to work as before kids while fitting in the 24/7 job as a parent. It's a trap because it is not mathematically or humanly possible to be present in two full-time jobs at the same time. This is a straight path to feeling overwhelmed and guilty about not being present enough both at home and at work. Do acknowledge that having kids cost you the luxury of time and accept the need for a change. If you don't face it today, it’s hard to imagine that tomorrow will be much better. Like for Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, the best way to get out of it is by going through it. Also, read here. Don't fall into the trap of thinking about time in hours and minutes. New parents often think about flexible working as a time trade-off: fewer hours at work, more hours with the family. It makes sense logically but often leaves you questioning whether you got the hours right. Whether you are spending enough time with your kid and putting in enough hours at work to show your commitment? 24 hours, 7 days and 52 weeks - is what you had before having kids and what you will ever have. Instead... Do choose what you spend your time on and how that time feels. The quality of the time you spend at work or at home makes a bigger impact than quantity. New parents who mindfully recalibrate their lives focusing on how they want to feel at work or at home, get a high level of fulfilment about their lives. Do an intentional review of your values, priorities and goals. When those are clear, it becomes easy to see what changes you need to make to your working life and how flex work can help you with it. Don't consider the COVID-driven team-wide remote working as a flexible working arrangement. Do an intentional review of what works best for you, your family, your new life priorities and goals, COVID or not. The way companies work now is not flex working, it's the new normal working. Don't copy your colleagues' flexible working schedule because it works for them. Do ask your colleagues about their arrangements and insights, for inspiration. Consider your job specifics (e.g. you work primarily with the Middle East and Monday is your busiest day) and family circumstances (e.g. childcare times and your partner's schedule) to see what flex work schedule will work for you. Don't think that flexible working means going part-time. Do check out the multiple options of flexible working that you can mix & match, many of them do not reduce hours or pay (though going to 70-80% is a good option for working parents to consider IMHO). Watch the flexible working webinar where Anna Ives, HR and Flexible Work Helpline Guru, and I discuss the options and practicalities of moving to flexible working. Don't assume that flexible working is only for mums. Do invite your partner to work flexibly while you are on mat leave and then when you both return to work. Consider sharing parental leave. Don't let the money drive your decisions. Of course, family and personal financials is an important criterion, but don't let it chair your life choices. Do reflect on why you want to reduce your working hours in the first place? How will it make you feel? Is the pay cut worth it? Your values, priorities and goals prep work will help you with this. Do your family budget and understand your true needs. What is life about for you other than making money? Don't feel as if your employer/team are doing you a favour. Do approach it as a business negotiation. Don't expect it will work smoothly straight away. Do talk with your family, clients, colleagues about what is working and what is not. Learn how you work best. Don't do like Tina in Dilbert. Do know when to put boundaries and when to be flexible. Don't worry. You can request to change your flex work arrangements to suit your changing needs (kids growing up, second child etc). Do believe in your super-powers! Mat leave is a deep-dive training in time management, resourcefulness and decision-making, to name a few great leadership skills.


Go here for more practical tips.


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