14th May 2020
As a single mum of two boys, flexible working has always been of interest to me and being able to nail the much-coveted work: life balance is one of the reasons I decided to set up my own company – in fact balance is the foundation of everything we do. Latitude Leasing is all about striking the right balance – we strive to get the best deal for our customers, our funding partners and ourselves!! We want mutual success at all levels
I was therefore particularly interested to see that the conservative MP Helen Whately, has put forward the flexible working bill to parliament this week which will make flexible working the norm and force companies to ‘opt out’ of offering it – having to cite exactly why a position or role cannot be done flexibly. Speaking in the House of Commons she said: “The 40 hour, five day working week made sense in the era of single-working households and stay-at-home mums. But it no longer reflects a reality of how many modern families want to live their lives’’. She is absolutely right and although I’m not sure that I agree wholeheartedly with the opt out version, the argument is strong and it certainly has some merit.
It’s often thought if as a female thing – to help mums juggle the kids and a job and this is often true but there are so many other people who could benefit too. I’m a mum and yes, I need flexibility to get the kids to school, to football etc but also I’m a big believer in healthy body: healthy mind and I want to be able to take time to exercise which keeps me focused and at the top of my game. Working a typical office job, plus the increasing pressure to be available 24/7 makes this almost impossible.
Men too want to be able to spend more time with their families but there is a stigma attached to asking for flexible working which we all need to get over, this is one of the good points of the ‘opt-out’ concept.
Younger employees want more flexibility because they feel they don’t have time to invest in friends and family. Now this might sound a little wishy washy and I can almost hear the shouts of ‘snowflake’ but why shouldn’t we strive to give the next generation a better balance, give them time to work on themselves, on being their best version. We have the technology to do it but need to embrace it to make it work.
Then there is the older generation. Pensions have taken a beating and a lot of older people need to work longer financially but perhaps are struggling physically – increasingly long commutes can take their toll. Rather than force them out of work – can’t we keep the knowledge and expertise in industry by offering more flexibility?
A number of research pieces have been done on the topic of flexible working and over 89% of workers believe flexibility would increase productivity. I definitely agree with this. In my previous roles, the gratitude from staff who I have been able to offer flexibility to has been immediately visible in their work.
Not having to spend two hours every day on the motorway enables people to start work sooner from their home office, so rather than being stressed out at 9am they’re relaxed and in a good head space for work
I do worry that the ‘opt out’ scenario would hamper the increased productivity though. When flexibility is earned, staff are grateful and therefore go the extra mile. If it is a given, there is no appreciation, therefore no need to give extra back.
As mentioned earlier, a lot of people need flexible working to be on offer so that they can fulfil their duties as a parent (school run, Christmas play, sports day, half term etc) and currently, these responsibilities tend to fall on the mum. Sadly, less than 10% of jobs advertised with a salary of over £20K pa offered flexible working. This means that women who have been successful, are good at what they do and have a lot to offer industry simply cannot work or have to take a job under their level. The pay gap is a hot topic and I am certain that more flexibility would assist in reducing this.
There is so much more we can do to accommodate modern living and I for one will be at the forefront of making sure all my team can benefit from it. I work hard and take pride in what I do – if I need to, I work long days, sometimes I miss the gym or can’t make the kids school assembly. That’s life, it happens but in the main I make sure I can be a good mum and a run a good business. I definitely plan to make a difference with the Latitude team as we grow. Life after all, is all about balance.