Here at Bubele we are passionate about flexible working for parents. We know how difficult it can be to juggle family and working life, but how important it is to a lot of mums. We are delighted that Michal Zitron of Lemonade Coaching, has pulled together her top tips for securing a flexible working contract and making it work for you.
“After the dust has settled, and motherhood has become second-nature, some of us start thinking about returning to work. When the end of our maternity leave is in sight, a lot of us fear that it isn’t going to be possible to balance time with our children, and a fulfilling career.
Oftentimes it seems overambitious and unrealistic. But in my case I knew I needed the mental stimulation that work provided, so I persevered.
That was six years ago, and while I negotiated with my then employer the terms that worked for me, it was not easy. I was fortunate that the value I provided was recognised, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. It took work on both sides.
Today flexible working is not only becoming more recognised, it is in fact an option that more firms are seeing the benefits of. Returning mums represent a sizeable chunk of the workforce and some agencies have recognised this trend, opting to recruit solely for this type of placement. Unlike historically where women were seen as ticking time bomb baby factories, women who want both are viewed as assets.
The market place is adjusting, with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development estimating that, by 2020, flexible working will be the main option for most employers.
So, how do you prepare to return to work on a flexible basis? It’s wise to remember that all parties stand to benefit. That being said, there are things you, as a candidate, can do to improve your situation. These not only show the employer you are serious about gaining flexible work, but also benefit you on the job.
I hear women often say that they feel there is no point in asking their current employer for flexibility, because they are convinced that the answer will be No.
Previous employee requests and a culture of “management is rigid”, can sometimes promote the idea that you are up against a brick wall.
However, the old adage is true – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Unless you’ve got it from the horse’s mouth don’t automatically assume you’ll have a negative response. If you eloquently and sensibly put forward a case, you never know the possibilities.
No two firms are alike. For some as long as the workload is done, it might not matter what days you are in. Whereas others, it could be a deal breaker.
Be transparent. Prepare as fully as possible by checking with the recruiter what the exact hours required are, and which days they require you to be in.
If there are conflicts with your childcare but you know you want the role, come up with at least two solutions.
For example, you will do two of the three days they require in the office but will need flexibility on the third. Or you cannot alter the days, but agree to be available via Skype, email or phone if needed.
Flexibility does work both ways, and you have value. If you show dedication and lateral thought it might work in your favour (arguably more than a non-parent applicant).
Offer to partner up with another employee to balance workload
If the company have another employee who requires flexibility in your department, offer to partner up and work on a rota basis. If you live reasonably close by, it may even be worth working out a nanny-share between you.
See it as an opportunity to shop around
If you’re not entirely enamoured with the role you had before, and your employer isn’t enthusiastic about flexibility; this is a fantastic opportunity to assess your options. Perhaps what you are looking for is out there, in a more forward-thinking firm, with different benefits?
The transition back to working life can be daunting, and some mums want to beef up their skills before diving into a role, and firms are recognising this.
Returnships function similarly to internships, but with pay and a clear route into a specific role, for which you train usually for a period of 3 months. Often targeted at mums who’ve been out of the working world 2 years or more, they can be highly confidence boosting as well as equipping candidates for long-term progression.
National banks and some IT/business consultancy firms are now offering Returnships, so it can be a real path for advancement.
Above all, remember that the skills you gained becoming a mum included persistence, dedication and the utmost diligence, often on very little sleep! All of these are not only transferable to working life, but are highly valued by employers.”
Michal Zitron is a coach specialising in helping mums of under-5s to get out of overwhelm, and create more balance. She is a mother of two and lives with her family in west London.