Tag: "work-life balance"

7 Ideas for Inspiring Flexible Working in your Workplace

7 Ideas for Inspiring Flexible Working in your Workplace

Especially for International Women’s Day Anna Meller wrote an e-book to help women inspire change at work, and helping you make your workplace a more flexible one. Anna firmly believes you an inspire change to, after all “change happens best when nobody notices” and “small changes add up”. Just pick one or two that you feel are most likely to succeed in your organisation and help build more flexible workplaces.

Anna’s top 7 most practical tips for inspiring flexible working

  • Re-design your job for flexibility, start by defining your job objectives, and make sure you get clarity on what you are meant to achieve and what you should focus your time and energy on.
  • When you are looking for more flexibility, consider working the same hours, and look for ways you can redistribute your hours eg. to evenings, early mornings, weekends or distance working.
  • When your organisation is hiring, mention there are flexible recruitment agencies that may well bring in the talent they are looking for if they can offer more flexibility.
  • Schedule a team meeting to discuss work life balance, and what it means to different people in your team. How can you support each other in achieving this?
  • Have you got all the skills you need for flexible working? Check it out on the e work life assessment tool and identify skills gaps for yourself or your team.
  • Be a role model. If you are a middle or senior manager working flexibly, be visible. It’s invaluable to show others that it can be done, inside and outside the organisation.
  • Identify the business case for flexible working for your organisation. There’s a good one on the Agile Future Forum to help you get started.

Would you like to know more? You can read the full story in Anna Mellers e-book: Ten Ideas for Inspiring Change in the Workplace .

Author: Inge Woudstra, Trainer, Speaker, Consultant and Founding Director of Mum & Career

Seeking professional challenge AND flexibility? Why I decided to create it for myself

Seeking professional challenge AND flexibility? Why I decided to create it for myself

Is eighteen my magic number? Eighteen months ago, I decided to leave my corporate career. In December 2013 I actually did leave after eighteen years (it took a long time to work through how best to direct the next phase of my career!). I’m now eighteen days into my new venture of self-employment and thought I would take a moment to reflect.

Why did I make this crazy decision? I took no severance package, I had no certainty of clients – it seems like a risk.

Looking for a new professional challenge

However, for me, the greater risk was actually to do nothing. I’ve had an amazing corporate career and enjoyed many successes and a wide variety of experiences. I have learnt much from wonderful leaders and colleagues. As a Mum of two girls now aged 8 and 5, I also cannot fault my previous employer in terms of flexible working. I worked part time in a senior position and that was not the problem.

The reason I decided eighteen months ago to leave, was because I craved a new professional challenge. I wanted to take the skills and competencies that I had and employ those in different sectors, for different sized organisations and optimise that variety. I also feel that I have a huge amount of valuable experience to bring value to smaller, medium and growing organisations.

Senior level and flexible working

What isn’t straightforward is moving companies at a senior level and maintaining flexible working. I’m positive there are examples of women (& men) who have achieved this career migration blended with an integration with home life (I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘work-life balance’). However, I was impatient myself to start the new phase in my professional career. The searching for, and negotiation of, what is still viewed by many as a privilege (and an earned one at that ) to not work 9 – 5, 5 days a week in a specific office location – was too much of an uncertain obstacle to me. I found I would talk with a Recruitment Consultant and either not mention my preference for flexibility or play it down – I’d learned that when you do, the conversation changes.

Getting the job done vs. availability

The absurdity of ‘flexibility’ and it’s actual rigidity and perception in organisations today occurred to me. It’s going to take longer than my immediate career life span for the current working paradigm to shift sufficiently for organisations to be less interested in people’s availability and more interested in outputs, talent and fit for a job. The fundamental fact is that I get the job done. Well. How and when and where … well I’m a professional. I make good decisions about when I do actually need to be at a certain location and when I don’t. I make good decisions about connecting with people and building relationships. I make good decisions about when I need to prioritise to achieve a deadline. My integrated life is full, but completely manageable if I can control my own schedule without needing to seek permission or justify to others where I am. Sure … measure that if I’m not delivering the outputs. Trust that I will make the right choices – after all, it’s in the interest of the job holder to continue to deliver isn’t it?

Hence my decision to keep my professional development going by finding my own integrated solution, rather than seeking those rare enlightened few who would hire at a senior level with flexibility.

The new challenge

This is not the only reason I decided to work for myself. I am a pragmatic, intuitive professional and this enables me more than just flexibility in terms of work schedule. I can determine how I work, my method, who I work with and where. Is it challenging me – yes! In so many ways and it’s just the early days, but the root cause for me to leave my corporate career was to seek and live new professional challenges – so in that sense it is delivering already.

As an HR professional, once I freed myself from the constraints of conventional working options, this became fascinating. Research shows that there is going to be a fundamental shift in our approach to working in the next decade to twenty years. I read and connected with ‘Future Work‘ by Alison Maitland and Peter Thompson  with new enthusiasm. What better way to understand the coming employment trends that technology has enabled than to experience and live it myself?

And so here I find myself, after 18 years of wonderful and varied HR experiences and after 18 months of very considered deliberation, 18 days into what I am expecting to be an interesting, challenging and hopefully fulfilling chapter in my career (fulfilling for both myself and my Clients).

Along my eighteen month journey from decision to action, I had many inspiring pieces of advice and interesting conversations. Two I would like to highlight are as follows: Hillary Lees at Essence Coaching for helping me to ask myself the right questions and manage my inner critic. Dr Sam Collins founder of the Aspire Foundation for introducing me to the power of Vision Boarding.

Author: Paula Leach, Director, Indigo Day Ltd , Paula Leach on Facebook. If you are an HR professional, CIPD qualified with corporate experience and you would like to embrace Associate working with Indigo Day Ltd, please contact Paula Leach directly at paulaleach@indigoday.co.uk. She would love to hear from you as she is excited to be building a fabulous network of highly professional and experienced HR colleagues.

To find balance and harmony, learn Mindfulness

To find balance and harmony, learn Mindfulness

Since her children came along life is quite tough for working mother Nancy. She has her own business, teaching music: classes with toddlers during the day time and during evenings and part of the weekend she is a piano teacher to children and adults. Her eldest, Jonathan now 5 years old, has never been a good sleeper and as a result, she hasn’t slept well for the last 5 years. Her husband helps wherever he can, but as he is travelling a lot for work, he can’t be really counted on. Juggling a 3 and 5 year old with the irregularity of her job was getting to her. Nancy decided that something had to give, and she did not want it to be her. She chose to have some coaching and changed her life around.

How did she manage to change her life?

Having a space where she could offload and at the same time get an insight in what was going on helped Nancy to start feeling more in control. Instead of the chaos she felt, she could look at herself and her life from a broader perspective, which was helpful. But, the most important change was the fact she learned mindfulness meditation: “After the first session I have been feeling so much calmer, and I have been sleeping better as well. I have more energy, which is great and I am feeling really positive about me taking back control of my emotions.”

Mindfulness is in the spotlight at the moment and for good reason. It has proven to be a great tool to reduce anxiety, deal with depression, manage eating disorders and …. as shown on BBC’s programme Horizon ‘change personality traits – from negative into positive’ (10th July 2013).

There is a lot of scientific evidence that shows that mindfulness meditation helps people to make changes in what sounds like a ‘magical way’. Meditate daily and feel your depression evaporate, practice regularly and observe your mood changing. Add some academic tests and notice that your brain has changed: physical and visual proof of change.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness: the state of being in which you are in the present moment and not busy with the past (that has gone anyway), the future (which is a fantasy that might never materialise in the way you anticipate), other people (as they distract you from yourself) or events (that always take place outside you).

The art of being fully present!

What is meditation?

Meditation: the technique or activity that will lead to a state of mindfulness. The key of meditation practice, sometimes called ‘sitting’, is focus. It is not relevant what you focus on, as long as you do it.

It is simple. And I know that, because I have been doing it myself and I am teaching people how to do it and how to integrate the skill into their busy lifestyle.

Top five tips to become more mindful

Mindfulness is all about focus. Regardless of what it is you focus on. If you want to be more mindful, try the following for as long as you have time for – 10 seconds, 1 minute, 10 minutes:

1. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Count how many different sounds you can hear.

2. SMS – Soften My Shoulders. Bringing the whole of you focus on to your shoulders and really observe how much tension you are holding. Then when you next breath out, allow that tension to gently flow out of your body.

3. When the phone rings or pings, try not to ‘react’ and pick it up. Take a moment to tell your mind that you can hear the sound of your phone and then decide what you are going to do: pick it up, look at it or leave it (yes, that is an option)

4. Observe the flow of your breath. Feel cold air coming in and warm air going out.

5. Focus on the soles of your feet in contact with the floor. Connect with the ground and feel how your energy is coming down into your body towards your feet.

Mariette 2011 cropped face_150x150Author: Dr. Mariette Jansesen, Dr. Destress.  She helps women to create their perfect work-life balance with individual coaching and mindfulness training. The Winner’s Package is a 4 session series that will deliver the results you are looking for and you will learn the art of Mindfulness.

Interested to learn more? Mariette is doing a talk on ‘The Art of Mindfulness’ on Wednesday evening 31 July in Guildford.

Or just call Mariette 07967717131

Get Work Life Balance - First find your priorities in life

Get Work Life Balance – First find your priorities in life

Is your life out of balance? Does your work life feel like it does not fit? But how to get it right?

Start by defining your priorities. Yes, you do have to make a choice. Coach Anna Meller created a fantastic tool to made a fantastic tool to help you The Work Life Balance Workbook

Kids in the Middle - I can work it out

Kids in the Middle – I can work it out

Wondering what sort of work life balance you want? Should you return to work? Work less hour? Should you husband work less hours and what do you really miss in your life right now?

Do this fun quiz from Working Families to quickly assess your priorities and find out what needs to change first

Working Mothers at Societe Generale discuss ways to make it work

Working Mothers at Societe Generale discuss ways to make it work

I was delighted to be invited to the Working Mothers Lunch by the SocGen’s family network. I headed a panel discussing tips and solutions to the top 3 issues for working mothers: juggling time, confidence and partner support. Juggling time turned out to be the top issue for almost every working mother and in the discussion that followed issues and advice were shared openly.

Flexible and agile ways of working are on the increase

What really struck me was how flexible many jobs seemed to be. There were women working at 80%, coming in at 9.30, working 4 days a week, leaving at 3pm, and leaving early and making up time from home later in the evening. Clearly this is all possible in SocGen. Still, it is not possible in every job, it is harder at more senior levels and it also requires intelligent management by the individual to get a manager to agree.

Individual women have to be clever and work hard to make it work

So, yes, on the surface it seems there is a lot of flexibility, but it does come with it’s own issues that working mothers have to sort, often with little support, training or role-models. These are some of the issues that came up in our discussion:

  • You work 80%, which allows you to leave early, but you have a very competitive colleague, clearly emphasizing your lack of commitment and making the most of your absence. Do you make the hours and return to 100%, do you accept your career will slow down, or do you take the political fight head-on, emphasize your commitment, stressing how you are indebted to the company and have no intention to leave soon for greener pastures elsewhere, unlike over-ambitious colleagues….
  • Your husband is a stay-at-home dad, which is fantastic as it gives you the chance to develop your career, but he is not pulling his weight. Do you just let it go and leave it to him? Do you pick up the pieces in evenings and weekends and burn out in the process? And how on earth do you get him to understand stay-at-home dad is a job too?
  • Finance is part of every discussion too. Some people’s finances don’t allow for extensive support at home like a nanny and a cleaner, which makes life significantly more difficult. Some people’s finances don’t allow for pre-school childcare followed by private school, and then how can you choose between the two?
  • Your boss tells you not to bother coming in for you KIT days during Mat.Leave, but you know it’s key to stay in touch. Do you come in anyway, and what do you do on those days? Do you enter a discussion with your boss explaining the value of KIT days, or just leave it and return after Mat.Leave?
  • You have a long commute (over an hour) and a nursery pick up, requiring you to leave the office at 5 sharp, you have had a chat with each colleague to explain this, and how it hasn’t changed your commitment, just that your hours are spread differently over the day. However, colleagues still come in at 5 with urgent topics and jobs. Do you stay late? Disappoint them and show lack of commitment and feel guilty? What’s the answer?

How to make it work

It was clear during the panel input and the discussion that it really helps to share, and learn from each other. It helps to know you are not the only one but also gives you the courage and motivation to help you carve your own path. I would love to share some of the best tips and insights that I heard:

  • Follow (some) e-mails when on Mat.Leave to help you stay in the loop, come to work regularly to keep up-to-date and/or consider a shorter Mat.Leave. It all helps to ease back in, as it really can take 9-12 months before you feel as confident as before. Which might have something to do with sleepless nights as well….
  • Engage all resources: family members, friends, your NCT network and neighbours. Keep in mind it’s only a number of years, and that one day they might need your support too.
  • Realise it’s harder when you have just had your baby, as you are coping with a huge change, sleepless nights and feeling your way to a new ‘routine’ at work, at home and in your relationship. It does not get easier, but you will learn to handle it over time, and when you look back in 15 years you can hardly remember what exactly made it hard and you can be proud of your children and work achievements.
  • Work-life decisions aren’t cut in stone, your situation will change over time: 1 child has different requirements from 2 or 3, nursery hours are different from school hours. Remember to adapt accordingly: You can ramp up your hours to 100% in a busy period at work that you want to be part of, and slow down a few years later when your teenager is going through a difficult period.
  • Leave your partner to it: just leave on a business trip and let him sort it, or close the door of the study on a Saturday announcing: ‘I am studying today’. Most partners will adapt, they just need some time.
  • Move closer to work, cutting down on the commute means you can be at the nursery in time, be home for bed and bathtime and be there quickly in an emergency. It’s a choice and means prioritising your career over a leafy suburb, and the pull of the lush country-side.
  • When you are about to leave at 5, and a colleague comes in with a piece of urgent work, suggest you are happy to log back in at 9pm to finish it for him. Usually they will quickly re-assure you it’s not that urgent, and if it is, you really should do it, as clients and business do require your commitment.

Participants left reflective, energised and motivated. Knowing that it isn’t easy, and it’s sometimes  a steep learning curve, but it’s worth it. The event was very well organised, and participants felt it was excellent and they would love to see more similar events.

Are you looking to get more out of the family or women’s network in your organisation?

The family network and women’s network at SocGen are very active, and always have well-attended, lively events. They find that it works to:

  • organise regular events
  • make sure they entice participants with an exciting title, and blurb
  • invite good speakers (some are happy to come for free)
  • invite internal speakers, real-life stories from colleagues often are highly appreciated
  • allow time for networking
  • invite external participants e.g. graduates (via HR) or clients

Author: Inge Woudstra, Working Women’s Expert and Director of Mum & Career


Lean in ....with chocolate

Lean in ….with chocolate

There has been a lot of talk about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book ‘Lean in: Women, Work and the Will to Lead’. In the book the CEO of Facebook (and mother of 2) explains what’s holding women back. One of her key lessons is one I advocate all the time too…but what has that got to do with chocolate? Find out from Jenny Garrett.

How to manage a senior position and children - Aparajita Ajit

How to manage a senior position and children – Aparajita Ajit

Find out from Aparajita Ajit how she does it – She is Vice President and Head Banking & Capital Markets UK and Europe at MphasiS, an HP company based in Bank, London. She works flexibly and has a three-year-old son and lives in New Malden, Surrey. She volunteers for the Mayor’s Mentor Programme.

Judith Zerdin, journalist, went to find out how she manages it, and when, if ever she ever gets to see her son.

You have the word “Europe” in your job title. Does that mean a lot of travelling?

Part of my job involves looking at new client acquisitions, and that does mean a fair bit of travelling. I was in France last week, next week I’m in Edinburgh, after that I’m in Luxembourg.

I could have a week when I have to visit two or three countries, but I tend to make them day trips rather than staying over. I’ll catch the first flight out in the morning and the last flight back at night.

How much work do you have to do in the evenings/at weekends?

My boss is based in New York and my team is scattered between the UK and Europe, but we do have a few members in India too. We have to speak at a time that works for everybody, so we’ll often get on to a team call at about 9pm. Once my son’s in bed I’ll go back to work.

I try to avoid working weekends if I can, unless there’s a major bid or some urgent time-consuming project.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up at about 5.30 – quite often I have to make early morning calls then to my Indian colleagues.

My son wakes up between 6.30 and 7am and then we’re getting ready and out of the house by 8am.

I drop him off at his day care and then I catch the train to Waterloo and then the tube to Bank. I’m in the office by 9am.

I use my commute to catch up on a lot of my business reading; keeping abreast of what’s going on in the markets. I check my phone, but I try to avoid doing emails as I deal with a lot of confidential information.

I don’t usually take a lunch break; I’ll just grab a salad or sandwich and have it at my desk, and then I leave at 4.30 to pick my son up from day-care.

I like to spend 2-3 quality hours with him before he goes to bed, after which my husband and I will have dinner and then I’ll catch up on work I’ve missed from the two hours not being in the office, and make any conference calls to the US or Canada.

I have a cook who comes once a week and the rest of the week my husband and I share the cooking. I also have a cleaner once a week.

It’s about juggling it all, but the good news is, as long as the work gets done and I put in the hours, my company doesn’t clock-watch. It helps that it’s a trust-filled atmosphere.

What about ‘downtime’?!

Weekends for sure – on Saturday nights my husband and I catch up with friends either at our place or go out for dinner, or go to the theatre. I go to a zumba class on Saturday mornings and Wednesday nights and I also go to the gym on Mondays after my son’s in bed and my husband’s home from work. I’ll fit my work around it.

My husband and I try to take off at least one Friday every three months to get some “us” time, too. Then we might go and see a film, or just chill out.

What about your husband – how do you share childcare responsibilities?

Each week we’ll share our schedules for the next week or couple of weeks so we can plan our diaries. We make sure, as best we can, that if I have to travel somewhere he will pick our son up, and he can work a bit from home.

My husband and I share responsibilities equally and he is extremely supportive and understanding. I do pick-up more often because my husband works for an Investment Bank and it does make it quite difficult to leave as early as me. However on days that I travel, he plans his schedule accordingly.

What would you say are your best coping mechanisms when things get tough?

It depends on how you define ‘tough’! For example, my son had chickenpox not that long ago. We had all our annual leave planned already and I only had three or four days to spare, but I decided to work from home, and my husband took some days off.

His company also offers an emergency nanny service, so we got one for the last three or four days.

I think drawing on any flexibility your employer gives you is very important. It’s all about having a very understanding employer, and an extremely helpful and reliable husband. We don’t have our parents in this country so we can’t rely on them.

When things get tough I just have to deal with it – it’s a bit of a trade-off. When it comes to childcare it’s just really important that we’re planned and organised.

At what point in your life did you decide this was what you wanted to do?

I grew up in India and I didn’t have everything just given to me; I had to work hard for it. Moreover, my parents were role models and I learnt a lot from them.

I’ve got two Master degrees and I was studying while looking after a baby and working full time, but I invested in all of that and started to see the results of my efforts and I realised the sky’s the limit. I believed that all the way through it.

What would your advice be to mums who presume they can’t go further in their careers if they have a family?

Many of my friends are highly educated, while some of them decide to stop working out of choice, many of them feel they have to give up their career once they have a family. A lot of the time we presume that’s how it has to be, but I think you need to talk about your aspirations with your family.

Look for other options: working flexibly/part-time/job sharing, and be a bit shameless with the resources made available to you at work.

For many people childcare is very expensive – you should work out how many days you can afford it and see what options are available for the other days.

Has any part of your life suffered in your quest for success?

There are days when I really wish I could just put my feet up and go to the Bahamas! On the other hand, we do make the most of our holidays, and I love spa days – I’d be lying if I said not. But I’m very happy as a mother, wife and professional woman. I’m very pleased with the life I have.