Flexible working for me

By Helen Wright, Founder of 9-2-3 Jobs

This month we’ve taken on another five members of staff to join the 9-2-3 team, and it’s led me to think about what flexible working means for me.

I set up 9-2-3 Jobs following a frustrating (and fruitless) period of looking for work myself. For the first few years I would work alone from my own home. Working whenever I wanted and essentially only accountable to myself. If I wanted to meet a friend for coffee, or volunteer to help in my children’s Forest School, then I could. And if that meant I needed to work in the evening to get things done, then I would.

Now we have 14 people – all with different flexible working arrangements – on the payroll. And I’ve realised that although everyone has flexible hours, I myself have been increasingly drawn to a more regular working pattern - somehow feeling the need to be present in the office. It’s a funny realisation that although I am happy for team members to have an element of home working, I have felt unable to do that myself (not including the hours I work each night). I suppose I’ve felt that as Director of the business I’ve needed to have an office presence – albeit an office presence until 3pm when I head for the school gates (hence the need for evening work!).

It’s been conversations and overheard comments from the team that have made me really consider how I work moving forward. As our team continues to grow, I find I get increasingly distracted in the office and would benefit from some peaceful home working. A colleague said that they love being in the office for conversation, camaraderie and support on roles they’re working on; whilst they feel they can really get their head down if they’re working from home, with fewer distractions. They thought a mix of office and home working was the absolute ideal for work satisfaction and productivity. And I thought how much I agreed. It goes without saying that no one is more committed to the success of 9-2-3 than me, so I shouldn’t feel the need to prove the hours I work by being in an office. Afterall, one of our mantras is “Productivity over Presenteeism!”.

Every week I have a call with Jenna, our Social Media Manager, who works remotely. Last week I asked her how her training for the 100km bike ride she’s doing was going. And she said that it was thanks to being able to work her hours flexibly that she could fit rides in around her work and her family. (And it should be said that as Social Media Manager, her productivity is visible to everyone, so there’s no hiding!) I thought that I too was lucky to be able to fit in training for the triathlon I’m doing next month. Some mornings I arrive slightly later to the office as I cycle rather than drive (great for the environment too!). It was on one of these rides that I thought about writing this blog, as I realised that these times were really important for me to compose my thoughts on all sorts of things. When I started the training back in January, I thought a lot about my friend who died last year. She had three children a similar age to mine, and I’m doing the triathlon in her memory, in aid of the hospice that looked after her. Now that I’m getting faster on the bike, I’m able to fit more rides in and can spend time thinking about roles I’m working on, the clients I’m speaking to, the best way to grow the team, the areas we need to improve, what’s working, what’s not…So by the time I arrive in the office, or back home, I feel ready! I think I’m a better employee (and a better mother) for this bit of head space. I think that flexible working means that more of our workforces can benefit from this sort of head space, which clearly has to be a good thing.

I want to show my commitment to flexible working and lead by example. As long as we have our manager’s agreement, we’re productive, and fulfilling our duties, then surely it is OK to arrive some mornings after 9am. It is OK to have a break for a quick dog walk or run during the day. It is OK to work from home on occasions. The proof of whether or not we’re working should come from results - not from office presence.

So, moving forward I will continue to make time for bike rides, and I will work more regularly from home. As long as I’m productive and engaged, then I know the hours are right for me, and for the business.