I have worked as a freelancer and blogger for nine years this August, and it is sometimes hard to remember what life was like when I still did regular work. At the time my son Joe was born, I was an acting head teacher of a Primary School, working full time, and also bringing a lot of work home each evening. When Joe came along I wanted to reduce my hours to part time so I could enjoy being a mommy to this precious little bundle, a request that became even more important when I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. Unfortunately I did not meet the response I was expecting, and the reduced working hours came at a cost, this eventually led me to leave a profession I had been part of for 12 years. For me, this was the right move, but many women who are Mother’s still want/need to retain their working life, and with more flexibility in the workplace, this is finally becoming a choice.
There are many reasons why a woman will want to return to work after having a child. Money, and the need for that income is one of the most important, but not the only reason. The want to continue with a career that was started before children came along is also important, as is the need for the companionship, the challenges, the diversity and the change in setting that work can bring. When you’re a mom, and you’ve been used to the same four walls, or the playgroup or park, returning to an office environment can be a great release, especially if you are lucky enough to work in a new style office like google which features bright and stylish Breakout furniture. Work can give you the opportunity to focus on something more than just motherhood, to be someone in your own right, something I found difficult in my own work struggles once Joe had arrived.
But there is still a need for employees to be understanding about the need for flexible working hours and situations. Childcare can be difficult to find and may have to fit around other family members, school holidays are a definite challenge, and more irregular hours, and some opportunities to work from home should the need arise are to be applauded and are much appreciated.
Flexible working hours are something that any employee can now request from their employers as long as they have 26 weeks continuous employment. The rise of new technology, like Skype, and video conferencing hosted by the likes of GoToMeeting, which allows you to simultaneously host a video meeting for up to three people, means that working from home is no longer an impossibility, even when working on important projects and with clients. Flexible working hours, either less hours, or partially working from home, allows both parents, not just the mother, the opportunity to juggle the commitments of family life, to not have to miss out on the school run, or the Christmas play, yet again. But still being able to achieve great things in the world of work.
The evidence says that workplaces that allow flexible working hours see an increase in productivity, a decrease in workplace absences and actually find their staff to be a happier, less stressed workforce. If you are thinking of applying for flexible working hours, you should know that employees have to listen to your requests and make every attempt to accommodate, so, if you think this is something that could benefit your family, now is the time to make your stand.