In praise of flexible working

The word 'flexible!' on a container of fish oil capsulesOne of the thing that local government does really well – and I feel isn’t lauded enough for – is promoting and supporting flexible working.

I applied after having my first child. Having weighed up the eyewatering childcare costs, and the fact that I wanted to have time at home with my daughter while she was little, I was delighted when my application to work two days a week was approved.

When we advertised the remaining three days of the shiny new job-share post, it attracted a huge volume of applications. There are plenty of communications professionals who would like to work part-time it would seem.

Benefits for me have included being at home with my children, keeping childcare costs down and still keeping my career ticking over. My employer has retained my experience, boosted my loyalty and gained another communications professional in my job-share partner. Two heads really can be better than one.

Challenges have included adjusting to a different way of working, keeping up with an often fast-moving agenda – a lot can happen in the three days that I’m not in – and needing to work harder to establish and maintain relationships with colleagues, councillors and other contacts.

I feel that the benefits have outweighed the challenges.

And it’s not just parents – that’s parents, not just mothers – who apply to work flexibly. Some workers want to wind down before retirement, some to pursue outside interests and a growing number have responsibilities for ageing parents that can be hard to reconcile with a full working week.

Flexible working should also be seen as an opportunity in these constrained times. Must posts be full-time and, in the main, office based? There are plenty of people out there who’d like to work more flexibly. Local government could be missing out on a lot of talent by sticking to the standard script.

For a comprehensive overview of the advantages and different types of flexible working visit Directgov here

Creative commons: Flexible! by chrisinplymouth on Flickr

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