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Flexibility is not a new thing… but it is becoming the norm.
Last week, a study by YouGov reported that only 6% of employees are working the traditional hours of 9 to 5 and 65% said that working more flexibly would improve their wellbeing and satisfaction at work. However, a third of people said they didn’t think their employer would allow them to work more flexibly? Adrienne Muir, COO at VoxSmart has championed flexible working since day one and here she tells us why.
by Adrienne Muir
on 30th August 2018
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Being a full-time working mother, time and time again I reflect on my own childhood, and thankfully I have very fond memories of growing up in New Zealand with great friends, a loving supportive family and (what I now know, was unprecedented) access to both of my parents throughout my formative years.
In those days, having a mum around before and after school was a given, however having a dad around to attend school trips, take the kids to school in the morning, be around for school pick up and attend sports days was unheard of, most of my friends had dads bound to a 9-5 desk job with no flexibility.
My father was a police officer, who in the early years of my life was on shift work as a Detective in Wellington. We often had dad home for our school holidays, and due to shift work, he was often home and had time to help with homework, answer my 101 questions around maths (not my strength, nor my mother’s) and help me navigate friendships during tricky afterschool playdates as a young girl. It was dad who taught me that everyone puts their trousers on “one leg at time” and to hold off on judging people and without a doubt my operational way of thinking runs thick from dad who ran police operations across NZ on a regular basis. I often feel I have a nurse as a mum and policeman as a father has shaped so much of how I see things today.
His love of his job ran though his blood. We knew his work was important, but equally we also knew we were able to have fantastic quality time with dad and mum which galvanised us as a family. Don’t get me wrong, he did miss out on a number of key moments (my graduation for one), as he often worked weekends or was working a long enquiry taking him out of home for weeks at a time. But with those hard hours, came the ability to have large chunks of time off for quality family time.
The access to both parents as a young child has without a doubt shaped me into who I am today. It has also set the tone as to what I want my kids to have as they grow up. Like me, I had a working mother and my children understand that “mum works” and it’s a part of who I am and what I love. Being in a work environment challenges me. I’m not ashamed to admit I do love working… ,but luckily, I have chosen a role and company that respects and understands my need for flexibility to also be available and present for my kids. As the COO at VoxSmart I can be attending an Investor meeting, defining business processes, right through to onboarding new joiners and clients.
While I am working Monday to Friday, my hours alter to accommodate school drop off and pick up and school holidays. I respect that not everyone can have that flexibility; but from talking to colleagues, friends and fellow parents, we’re all already beating the drum for flexible working and companies need to recognise that trust and openness is a value we all should install into our company culture. Earlier this year another study also reported that many employees would prefer flexible working over a pay rise (study by powwownow 2018) and flexible working has been named as one of the many benefits that contribute to reduced staff churn.
It’s critical that CEO’s and managers understand that supporting their staff and understanding their individual needs is more than just managing their performance. It’s about supporting wellbeing at work and respecting that there may be a need for flexibility and not just because of childcare. At my work currently, the ability to request flexible working is open to everyone (by which the minimum required as set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996)*. The people that do work flexibly are just as productive than anyone working 9-5. We have people working 7-3 or 10-6 and that’s to accommodate travel times, sport clubs, and childcare to name a few. We trust that everyone can deliver to their own schedule and we respect that we are all delivering to the same goal for the same team.
Strapping people to their desk is the norm in the businesses of old. As I write this, I am tucked away in the coffee shop downstairs. Some of my team are slacking me to coordinate tomorrows meetings and some are replying to my emails from a sunbed as they finish off their summer holiday. It works both ways and I am so proud that at VoxSmart we have that level of mutual respect.
From a personal perspective, having flexibility comes at a cost. Its hard work. I won’t lie, your hours at work reduce at one end but are substituted at the other. You leave work at 3, only to get to homework, bath, books and bed – to then log on again at the end of the day. But I wouldn’t have it any other way and neither would my kids!
I have an incredibly supportive husband who is just as involved and feels the same way about flexible working. We’re a great team. The personal benefit we both get from having flexible working is we are available a lot more than we would be working set hours. We can be there on the sick days, or at the school gates for pick up and most importantly present for them when they need us. For that, I count my lucky stars.
* Under provisions set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and regulations made under it, all employees have a statutory right to ask their employer for a change to their contractual terms and conditions of employment to work flexibly provided they have worked for their employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date the application is made. An employee can only make one statutory request in any 12 month period