Working nine to five, commuting to an office where everyone else works the same hours, is a working pattern that’s familiar to most and useful to few.
Increasingly we’re seeing recognition that nine to five doesn’t suit parents. I’m not convinced working mums are as new a phenomenon as we’re lead to believe, however we have seen women’s role in the workplace change. This is also men’s role in the home and therefore their role in the workplace as well.
I was very lucky when my children were under school age. I moved into an area with a lovely nursery that offered childcare from 7am to 7pm. The nursery I was using prior to this offered only 8am to 6pm, speaking to other parents and having researched nurseries myself these shorter times seem to be the norm.
As a starting point 8am to 6pm makes a nine to five day very difficult, especially when commutes often take at least an hour. That’s before even adding those all too common delayed trains or roads turned into car parks.
With a nursery providing me with plenty of childcare to cover my working hours 52 weeks of the year, I didn’t realise quite how easy I had it until my children went to school.
With the school day finishing mid-afternoon my children now notice some of their friends are going home directly. Don’t underestimate the guilt trip a 5 year old can lay on! There is also the 13 weeks of school holidays to manage (5.6 weeks statutory leave entitlement hardly comes close). Then we need to add on sports day, class assembly, christmas nativity, harvest assembly, parents evening, before we’ve even started with the “parents please come in tomorrow and join your children for a morning of craft”.
It’s not just the practical “childcare” aspect of parenting, reading, learning times tables and spellings, homework and piano practice also need to be fitted in. And somehow always last on the list – some time to have fun, play with and enjoy spending time with my children would be nice.
It’s not just working parents who are struggling to manage their working day. With an aging population, many more of us are caring for parents whilst working. In some cases with children still living at home.
The internet and technology has already started to change this. We’ve seen the numbers of self-employed women increase dramatically. Women and men are moving out of the normalised nine to five and finding their own ways of working to fit around family. The choice to own a business, work at it part time and grow it as the kids grow is changing lives. This isn’t to say it’s a route that everyone either wants or can afford.
Whilst so many people are stepping outside of the traditional working model, finding the only way to do this is to set up on their own, are employers missing a trick? There are so many ways to be able to offer flexibility. Clearly different methods will suit different industries.
Technology is just one enabler, allowing people to work from anywhere, which is often not being fully utilised. Only this week I heard a familiar comment, “we need all our staff here where they can communicate with each other, we’re all on Slack, that’s how we communicate”. For those not familiar Slack is an instant messaging tool, allowing people to have conversations both type and voice, over the internet. It is an enabling tool but this method of working with it neither uses the advantages of being able to collaborate by talking to each other whilst you’re all in the same room, nor the advantages of talking over the internet from anywhere in the world.
Changes to or increases in the working time required by a business could be accommodated by allowing someone to work less hours. Sounds perverse? By allowing someone to work less hours, you free up money to employ someone else to cover the hours needed.
Part time working and working from different locations are just some of the flexible options available. Allowing the flexibility to leave early for parents evening, ask yourself what really happens if I allow this person to leave an hour earlier on this day? Will the place really fall apart? There are some jobs where that just isn’t possible, but let us just stop and think – is it really not possible or are we just not prepared to change our thinking?
If you can find someone who would be really good at one bit of the job but not another, is taking them on part time an option so you can employ someone else with the other strengths? Or maybe offer a fixed term contract for the project they’d be really good at?
I know all these suggestions will not suit everyone and there are many more I could list but this blog would be so long you might give up on me. All I ask is for you to think outside the box. Think about the benefits to your business, the people who could join your team that currently can’t.
The reality is whilst employers remain stuck in the traditional nine to five and potential employees have other options, they are leaving the traditional jobs and doing what suits them.