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Steeple Aston
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9-2-3 is a recruitment agency that specialises in placing high quality candidates into jobs with hours that fit in around the school run.

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Blog

Case studies and thoughts on flexible working today.

 

#dadsflextoo - A blog by Phil Farr

Helen Wright

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The thing is, we value productivity over presenteeism at the GLA. You’re trusted to get the work done no matter your location and you are treated, not as a number, but as an adult.

Hi, my name's Phil and I work as a Senior Project Officer for the Greater London Authority and have done for 20 years. Yes, really! 

I have a partner and a lovely daughter who is 7. We live in the Home Counties and due to being able to work flexibly, I am able to balance the commute to work in London with some work from home days and this suits me because I can be there to do the school run and take my daughter to after-school activities.

Returning to work after paternity leave was a wrench for me, but I was consoled in the fact that we had decided that my partner would be taking on the childcare role for our small family. We didn't have grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc who lived nearby who could help out with any immediate support so it made sense for us to do this. Being able to work flexibly in my role and have the support from the organisation meant that I could also be at home and working when I needed to, which was so much better than if I was chained to a desk 9-5, 5 days a week.

The great thing about being able to schedule my work from home days was that I saw much more of my family. If I wasn't able to do this I would have been leaving the house at 7 am and wouldn't return home until after 6:30 pm, usually when my daughter would be getting ready to go to bed......and that wasn't for me. 

Being able to work flexibly became even more important to me two years ago when my partner started planning her return to work journey. She began looking around to find a job that would fit with school hours and holidays but felt dismayed as most vacancies were either very low pay or seriously compromised her talent and ability....something that I hear many Mums and Dads struggle with following a career gap. Luckily, she found an academic course, that will lead to a professional qualification and a job that will allow her to fit in with school hours, which she jumped at the chance of signing up to. 

However, the course includes a full-time day at college, so I needed to be at home on this day for the school drop-off and pick up and to be able to be with my daughter after 15:30 when she gets home. 

I immediately presented my case to the GLA and asked whether it would be possible to work from home every Wednesday, working the hours between 9:30 am - 2:30 pm so that I would be able to do the school run. The organisation was so positive about this that they wrote it into my contract. This means that there is never a conflict with my work at home day, as I am contracted to work a compressed day at home! 

The thing is, we value productivity over presenteeism at the GLA. You’re trusted to get the work done no matter your location and you are treated, not as a number, but as an adult. The GLA had no resistance to flexible working and in fact, let me work from home at short notice on other days when required. For example, my partner was recently offered work invigilating at exams at her collage and I was also able to work at home on those days as well. 

I think, one of the best things about flexible working is that because I have been 'allowed' this, it makes me a better employee to work with. I do a better job, I don't want to let people down and I take more pride in what I do. It's a big win for both me and the GLA and it's much less stressful to have the freedom to work in a way that suits your family life. 

I have many friends that work this way too outside of the organisation, in fact, one of them works solely on his own terms and hours as long as his allocated chunk of work has been completed. 

Flexible working isn't ‘genderised’, we have senior men and women at the GLA who are brilliant role models. They leave early to do the school run and have days at home when their children are unwell and we all still get our work done. 

Yes, things do need to change for Men in the workplace and society as a whole in the grand scheme of things. For instance, I've had to wander round football stadiums with my daughter to find a suitable toilet for her to use where I could accompany her,  but I have noticed that things are changing. For example, stores such as John Lewis now have smart gender-neutral toilets which shows that things are progressing. 


I realise that not every organisation will have a flexible working policy as good as the GLA's but my advice to any other Dad in the same situation (or anyone in fact), who is looking to be that bit more flexible around home life would be to simply ask for it. Consider how it will impact you, your boss and your team before you present your case - for instance, think about simple things such as diverting your office line to your mobile when you're working at home.

Three words that summarise the work/life daily juggle that I see all the Dads are being asked in the #dadsflextoo campaign is:

Don't.Miss.Out


#dadsflextoo - An interview with Tom Briggs | Diary of the Dad

Helen Wright

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I’ve always worked to live rather than the other way round so, for me, work/life balance is an existence in keeping with that philosophy. I’ve had jobs that have taken too much time away from me - both in terms of extra time spent in the office and the stress that I’ve brought home with me - and the balance was tipped heavily towards work, which just isn’t right. True work/life balance is where you feel that you’re doing a good job but where it doesn’t interfere with life.

Tom, tell us a little about you….

My name's Tom and I'm a dad of three. I've been a full-time blogger for the last three and a half years. This makes me more of a work-at-home dad than a stay-at-home one in the truest sense, but I've enjoyed the best of both worlds as a result.

Why did you choose your line of work?

I decided to become my own boss when my youngest child was on the way. I was approaching the end of a 12-month contract and my employer wanted me to sign for another year, but I really didn't want to stay on. The role was stressful and I was in danger of getting ill so I'd have been no good to anyone if I carried on working there. I was already making a little money out of blogging, so decided to run down my contract then make a go of blogging full-time so that work could be on my terms and give me more time with my young family. 

What does work/life balance mean to you?

I've always worked to live rather than the other way round so, for me, work/life balance is an existence in keeping with that philosophy. I've had jobs that have taken too much time away from me - both in terms of extra time spent in the office and the stress that I've brought home with me - and the balance was tipped heavily towards work, which just isn't right. True work/life balance is where you feel that you're doing a good job but where it doesn't interfere with life.

How did you find returning to work after paternity leave? 

With my older two children, I hated going back as it didn't seem right that I had so little time with them. Two weeks is nowhere near enough. I was self-employed and working from home by the time my youngest arrived and have been ever since, so the relationship between work and life has been much more harmonious.

Should there be more male role models in the workplace who promote shared parental leave & flexible working?

Yes, absolutely. However, I have a bit of a problem with shared parental leave in its current form as it's only available for a relative few. Had I stayed in my old job, for example, I wouldn't have qualified for it. I think it's great for those that it's an option for and, of course, it would be good to see more dads spending time with their children during the early months. But the rest of us are still limited to the statutory two weeks' paternity leave and that really needs to change.

Why is it important for you to be able to work flexible hours?

Life is short, we spend most of it working and children grow up so quickly so it was a no-brainer for me to enjoy as much time as possible with my family while the kids were still young. Being able to dictate my own hours has been integral to that.

What would be your advice to other dads who would like to work more flexibly? 

I would advise dads to speak to their employers to ask whether flexible working is an option and discuss how it could work. I would also implore employers to think about the mutual benefits of encouraging remote working. Technology has made this much more achievable and people just don't need to be in the same physical location all the time anymore. Plus a happier workforce is generally a more loyal and productive one. 

Do you feel that there is a negative stigma attached to dads who stay at home or leave work early to do the school run etc?

Yes, I think that dads are still seen as second-class parents in a number of environments and the workplace is very much one of them. A key reason for this is the fact that legislation hasn't changed enough so there's nothing to stop employers from preventing a lot of dads from having a better work/life balance. For the most part, I've been pretty lucky with employers' attitudes towards the needs of parents but know I'd have struggled had I stayed in my last role. It was a very corporate, results-driven environment, so I can't imagine they'd have been too patient with me during the sleep-deprived early days once my youngest was born.

Public spaces and facilities have traditionally been set up to support new Mums and not new dads, do you have any experience of this?

Sadly, yes. I've had to change nappies on the floors of public toilets more than once as the only dedicated facilities were in the ladies' loos. Things have improved a lot on this front since I first became a dad in 2010 but there's still a long way to go.

Pick three words that describe the juggle between work and family life.

Chaotic, unpredictable and rewarding.



#dadsflextoo - An interview with Andy Philip

Helen Wright

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It’s hugely important; we made the decision that I would take a short sabbatical from work when the twins were born so that we could do the first six weeks together and I’ve never regretted it. It’s an old cliche but you realise how many things you miss when you’re not there.

Firstly, tell us a little about you..

Hi, I’m Andy Philip; self-employed freelance musician; Dad to six year old twins.

My work involves live performance, recording sessions, arranging, composing and some teaching. Performance-work always tends to be in the evening which means leaving home around the kids’ dinner time to make the commute into the West End (I’m the contracted guitarist on the musical Wicked). The composition and arrangement work I do is normally to a deadline and is done during the day from my home studio (a 4ft x 6ft garden shed which I’ve sound-proofed and hooked up with electricity!). More and more now, artists are sending through their material for me to record at home; all this means that I can shift work around a little to suit our family needs, allowing me to do both school runs, except on matinee days or occasions when I’m performing further afield.

Why did you choose your line of work?

I’ve never wanted to be anything other than a musician, and I’ve always composed as well as played. After studying music to post-graduate, I began my career as a freelancer which was mainly touring-based: lots of travelling abroad whilst employed on contracts lasting anything between three months to a year. Since being married and starting a family, I made a conscious decision not to accept another world tour as I wanted to have more of a home life. This meant shifting my focus more onto writing and other activities which can be done during the day from home. It was also part of the impetus for my wife and I to set up our company jazz- A-nory, which focusses on creating and performing pieces for children. Building our own company has been an important step towards moulding a work pattern which suits our family life and school hours; it’s been great to involve our kids in our work and the process of music-making. It’s also given other musicians with young families the opportunity to perform with us during the day instead of the evening.

What does work/life balance mean to you?

It’s hugely important; we made the decision that I would take a short sabbatical from work when the twins were born so that we could do the first six weeks together and I’ve never regretted it. It’s an old cliche but you realise how many things you miss when you’re not there. It’s simple things, like family meal times, which are most important to me: little things come up naturally in conversations with the kids when you’re around and relaxed which may not come up otherwise. It’s really nice (for them and me) to feel familiar with their school-life (their teachers, the layout, their friends) rather than hearing things second-hand at the end of a long-day when they can’t really be bothered!

How did you find returning to work after paternity leave?

It felt like a wrench; but I can’t deny it was a relief to get some downtime on the train commuting into London. At the same time, the difficulty is feeling a sense of powerlessness when problems arise at home and you can only help through texts or phone calls.

Should there be more male role models in the workplace who promote shared parental leave & flexible working?

Without a doubt; I strongly believe that parenting is a 50/50 (or perhaps 100/100) job. In our industry it’s a bit more normal for my male colleagues to be doing the school-run because of evening performances but that does mean, generally, missing out on bedtimes.

Why is it important for you to be able to work flexible hours?

The point of being flexible in work is that it allows flexibility when other things arise: whether that be volunteering at the school, looking after the kids when they’re ill, sharing other family responsibilities such as elderly relatives or other last-minute, unexpected situations. It also actually allows me to say yes when social things come up, giving me the chance to have my own interests and some sort of social- life.

What would be your advice to other dads who would like to work more flexibly?

It’s a bit trite but I can’t imagine anyone on their death-bed saying “I wish I’d spent more time at work and less time with my family.” It’s worth making a few compromises financially and materially; I think, culturally, we should be aiming towards appreciating the value of time just as much as we appreciate the value of monetary currency.

Do you feel that there is a negative stigma attached to dads who stay at home or leave work early to do the school run etc?

I’ve never experienced it because our industry hours are a little more unusual; but I think, nowadays, any idea of stigma is replaced more by curiosity: “how can that be done” rather than “why?”

Public spaces and facilities have traditionally been set up to support new mums and not new dads, do you have any experience of this?

At more old-fashioned pubs and restaurants, the change table would be set-up in the ladies and I often had to ask staff to move a surface into the gents; people were very accommodating but sometimes looked at me bizarrely. It was important that I had somewhere for me to do the nappy changes as my wife and I had a deal: as she was feeding she would be responsible for what went in and I would be in charge of what came out! The conveyor-belt system worked well for us especially when out and about as it was too awkward to breastfeed both babies at the same time in public. The most striking observation I think I would make is in regards to the attitude of medical / healthcare professionals towards new Dads, particularly in the early stages up to the age of about three. I gained a much greater empathy for how women might feel in other areas of life when they ask a question and the answer is given to the husband or male colleague instead (in the boardroom, at the bank, at the estate agent’s etc.). Any direct question I made to the medical professional was always addressed back to my wife; there was little equality or inclusion as the other parent. I think having this imbalance inevitably seeps into our social attitudes later on in life.

Pick three words that describe the juggle between work and family life.

Well worth it.

jazz-A-nory will be performing live at the Lyric Hammersmith, London on Saturday 28th September and also at King’s Place, London on Saturday 16th November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.