Is Flexible Working A Myth?

Are working mums being sold the impossible dream? The Times published an article asking this very question on flexibility. As a mother of two two young girls, running Supermums, an organisation that retrains mothers in Salesforce and all the flexible and well paid careers that can open up, it’s a question that I’ve often thought about.

My own quest for flexibility led me to take up Salesforce, a tool that I had used in a previous business, in earnest when I realised that it was one way I could earn good money and work around my young family. I trained myself up in Salesforce, investing in courses and gaining my certificates, until I had the lightbulb moment that what worked for me could also work for other mums (and dads) and my idea for Supermums was born.

Flexibility for Normal People

Most of us aren’t Sheryl Sandbergs. We are just normal mothers with busy jobs, juggling shopping with school pick ups and events like nativity plays and parents’ evenings. All we need are workplaces that understand this and cater for our needs. We are willing to give of our best, but would like to be able to combine that with families, and keep everyone happy, within reason.

However, we don’t want is to end up shoe-horning our work around our family, working after the kids have gone to bed, and eating into our own rest time. No one benefits from this – not our employers, not our families and certainly not us. The end result is most probably going to be burnout.

For me, flexibility is the exact opposite of this. I see true flexibility as being able to choose my working pattern to fit with the needs of my family. I work both from my home in the South of England, and my office in London, keeping in touch with my team via regular online meetings, calls and instant messaging. And many of my team do the same, blending working from home with days in the office to stay connected and get some social contact.

We all understand that sometimes this level of flexibility means spending an evening at our desks, but that’s our choice and it does allow us to still be a part of sports day, school plays, PTAs and still work in fulfilling, challenging and developing roles.

The Right Environment

But just as important as the practical side, is the environment. Parents need a working environment that accommodates people’s different working patterns and location, accepts and supports the reality of parenting struggles, alongside continuing to empower and invest in their career development. To be honest, this environment is one that will empower anyone – we all have busy lives that will benefit from this.

Tech to Help Create Flexibility

Tech can be a great tool for flexible workers, allowing us to stay in touch and keep any feelings of isolation at bay. Here’s how we make it work for us at Supermums:

  • Daily catch ups help team members feel connected: at Supermums we call ours the daily stand-up meeting which starts at 9.15 and helps everyone understand everyone else’s priorities for the day
  • This can be complimented by a more informal ‘water cooler’ chat with each person.
  • Have an ‘open instant messaging’ policy for any queries or problems. Picking up the phone is always a great way to connect and just ask the questions you need and get the answers you need
  • Monitoring and working towards team goals can be achieved through reports and dashboards in CRMs like Salesforce sharing transparency around work activities and achievements. It’s a great basis and platform to review and share success, brainstorm solutions and work towards team goals. But also encourage colleagues to share their wins via emails and get those virtual pats on the back that help keep up motivation

In short, the perfect flexible workplace has to be a combination of the right environment and the practical framework that supports this. At Supermums we are always working towards this, but also encouraging the other mums we meet to educate their own workplaces in flexible working, sharing best practices and seeing flexibility as a way to support sustainable growth and human development.