Spooky season is here. While working parents up and down the country will be running around trying to find the perfect pumpkins and scouring the web to find a Barbie or Super Mario costume for their little cherub, it’s things that happen at work that scare them the most.
With certain companies removing remote working options for employers, many workers have decided enough is enough. Between that, no career growth, toxic cultures and zero work-life balance it’s no wonder that many employers are joining the great resignation and quitting their jobs.
Here are five scary things employers do that make working parents say NOPE!
1. Moving Away from Remote Working
With the pandemic now a memory, more and more companies are moving away from 100% remote working. This is inconvenient for some, but for working parents it can be a deal breaker.
Flexible childcare service, Pebble, has recently revealed that the move away from remote working is costing parents more than £600 extra per month in childcare. Many are quitting to seek more flexible options elsewhere. A whopping half of the 2,000 parents polled said they planned to quit because of no more remote working and a third said they had already moved to a company with more flexible options.
2. Not Offering Career Growth
If there’s one thing that will make an employee search for a better job, it’s offering no career growth in the one they’re in. Feeling trapped and stagnant makes people unhappy and so employers need to take note. Investing in employee development is key to keeping good workers. By providing opportunities for training, upskilling and career progression, you’re committing to their long-term success and will keep them long-term.
3. Creating a Toxic Culture
Having a toxic work culture can be detrimental for anyone’s mental health and can rightly push employees to seek opportunities elsewhere. Things like being unable to make a mistake, lack of trust, micromanaging, role confusion with no clarity on expectations and excessive stress among staff, will push workers to pastures new. Instead of this, employers should recognise and reward employees, give clear job descriptions and learn to trust.
4. Giving Employees No Purpose or Fulfillment
Having purpose and fulfillment at work is more important than people realise. Employees want to make a meaningful impact in their careers and will seek work that aligns with these values and provides that sense of purpose. If employers don’t offer that, they’re likely to jump ship.
5. Work-life balance
Different from simply more remote working, having true work-life balance means that workers – especially working parents – can properly balance their personal and professional lives. Employers need to embrace flexible working arrangements, offer hybrid work models that allow employees to work remotely part of the time. Flexible working shouldn’t be a perk of a job, it should be a right.
If your a working parent that want to alleviate these fears, take a look at our flexible working roles here.
The Flexible Working Bill that recently passed has been a long time coming and workers across the country are delighted. Essentially, it means that employees will be entitled to request changes to their working hours, times or place or work from the moment they start a new job instead of waiting the standard 26 weeks. This will be the case as soon as the bill becomes law in 2024. Managers will also have to give adequate reasoning for rejecting a claim which and the aim is to make flexible working achievable for all.
The UK’s minister for small business Kevin Hollinrake has said of the new law, “Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it’s a no-brainer. Greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work.”
Sounds great in theory but is it too good to be true?
Flexible by name but not always by nature
The name of the new bill is misleading. Having the word ‘flexible’ in the name, suggests that companies will now be required to grant every flexible request when that isn’t always the case. Although employees will now be able to make a request a lot sooner into a job, it can still be rejected. Companies will still be able to hide behind some vague hints of flexibility without fully committing to anything. This could be devastating to jobseekers who decide to start a new role once this bill is in place, believing that their request will be granted and then finding themselves stuck if it’s rejected. The new law does not require companies to be transparent about their flexible policies, which would be a lot more helpful to jobseekers.
Reasons for rejection
One of the biggest issues that some employees have with the new bill is that there has been no change to the business reasons that employers can use to reject a request. Companies who have been churning out the same excuses to deny workers this basic request can continue to do so – they just must appear to investigate alternative options first.
There are eight statutory grounds for refusing a flexible working request. These are:
· extra costs that will damage the business
· the work cannot be reorganised among other staff
· people cannot be recruited to do the work
· flexible working will affect quality and performance
· the business will not be able to meet customer demand
· there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
· the business is planning changes to the workforce
Currently, employers can reject flexible working, while using one of the above reasons and no other explanation.
A study by the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) found that half of new fathers and employees on lower incomes – usually less than £40,000 – are less likely to have their requests accepted. When the new bill comes in as law, the reasons won’t change. It basically means that the same people will face rejection, just sooner.
A (baby) step in the right direction
It’s not great but it’s not awful either. We can’t really consider it a win for those looking for flexible working. But it’s a (baby) step in the right direction. We all know that flexible working shouldn’t be a perk. It’s a basic right and it’s the only way that many people in the UK are able to work at all.
The bill is a good step in normalising flexible working but it isn’t enough to cause a celebration.
The benefits of flexible working are getting harder and harder to ignore by employers. And with two in five Scottish workers admitting that the flexible option is the only way they’re able to work, this statistic simply isn’t good enough.
The Office Wars
The first assumption many people will have when reading these statistics is that the low paid workers who were used in the survey, may have jobs they don’t lend themselves as well to flexible working. However, Nikki Slowey, director, and co-founder of Flexibility Works, put this idea to bed.
“Initially we thought this was because more low paid workers are in frontline roles, such as in the care, manufacturing, and hospitality sectors, where employers need to be more open-minded and creative to create flexibility,” she said.
“But our figures show this isn’t the case – frontline or not, the higher earners always have significantly more flexibility than lower earners.”
It would suggest then that the only reason for the shocking disparity between earners is trust. For whatever reason, higher earners command more trust in their jobs that allow them to work flexibly.
Slowey says, “Lack of trust is likely to be part of the problem because we know some employers still expect workers to ‘earn the right’ to work flexibly; but the full reasons are something we need to explore further.”
Trust Goes Both Ways
The issue of ‘trusting’ higher earners and that trust in a role must be ‘earned’ is ridiculously old fashioned. As we’ve discussed time and time again, the pandemic proved that businesses won’t come to a screeching halt if workers work or home or around other commitments.
Employees, or those looking for work, in Scotland who earn less than £20,000 will be losing trust in their employers if they are not allowed the same rights as workers with a higher salary. Those on a lower income may rely on flexible working more than those who earn more for childcare or caring arrangements. It’s simply unfair to not allow them this basic right.
Flexible Working Costs Nothing
Clare from East Lothian, Scotland works as a family support worker and is one of the few ‘lucky’ low earners who works flexibly.
“No one comes into my line of work for the money but having a good work-life balance makes a world of difference,” she says. “My husband works shifts so I sometimes need to be able to pick up my children at short notice and on different times and days in the week. If I couldn’t work flexibly, I’m not exaggerating to say that I couldn’t work. It just wouldn’t be feasible for my family.”
The study is based on research with more than 1,000 Scottish workers, 248 employers and 216 unemployed Scottish adults looking for work. It found that salary was the key differentiator on whether someone worked flexibly or not.
Working 9 – 5 in an office doesn’t work for many people but, for single parents, it’s especially hard. Having only one adult at home to help with the children’s routine and upkeep of the house can be impossible to manage if that adult must also commute to an office five days a week.
The UK has around 1.8 million lone-parent families who are collectively raising more than a fifth of the country’s children. Having an environment where they can work effectively has never been more important.
Perks of the Pandemic
We all know that working from home is not the only answer when it comes to flexible working. Some employers can actually be stricter in terms of timekeeping for home workers. Making it impossible for employees to leave their desk for more than a few minutes at a time. For those in companies who have a more relaxed approach to WFH, it can be a godsend for single parents.
While the Covid-19 pandemic was devastating, it proved that WFH can be effective. For single parents, this opened a whole world of working options that were not available before. With no other adult help, WFH allows parents to keep on top of household tasks during the day. And spend less money on childcare while cutting commuting time and even allowing some much-needed time for themselves.
“I became a single mum at the beginning of 2020,” said Emma from Edinburgh.
“For the first couple of months, it was business as usual with me working full-time in the office, but it soon started to take its toll. With only me around after work and school, my evenings were eaten up by washing school uniforms, making dinner, and catching up on cleaning and that was on top of the usual homework help, bath and bedtimes. I was exhausted.
When my office introduced working from home, it really saved me mentally. I had time throughout the day to keep on top of washing and cleaning, have dinner cooking and just generally have a bit of time to take a walk or have a bit of a rest. I also gained around two hours a day by not commuting. Although I’m now expected to come into the office twice a week, it’s still a lifesaver knowing that I have those three days at home. My biggest fear is if they stop home working completely.”
The Point of No Return
And Emma is not alone with her desire to keep homeworking. According to a survey by US-based recruitment platform FlexJobs, about two-thirds of people surveyed between July and August 2022 wanted to keep working from home. However, big corporations such as Disney and Starbucks are leading the way in championing a full return.
For single parents, this approach simply doesn’t work. The burden of the daily commute and lack of support at home means that their need for flexibility is greater than most.
These workers make up such a high percentage of staff in the UK and their needs must be listened to. Like other employees, they’ve proved they can do their jobs outside the office and if employers can’t accommodate parents’ need for more flexibility around home working, they risk a talent drain as these parents seek out new roles with companies that can. Switching to outcome-based work and WFH seems the way forward, especially for single parents.
Looking for a new job can be a minefield, especially when you need your new role to be flexible. Recruiters can make new roles out to be wonderful when, in reality, they’re woeful.
Because most job seekers have cottoned on to the idea of flexible working, many companies are scrambling to make their companies sound as appealing as possible.
This can result in very vague or even false claims on job adverts to attract more candidates. Making it even more difficult for candidates to spot the great deals from the duds.
So, is that amazing sounding new job a great find or a flexible faker? Here are some reg flags to watch out for when job hunting and the questions you should always ask.
1: ‘We’re not looking for someone with a 9-5 mentality’
This may sound like music to your ears if you’re looking for a more flexible role. But beware; companies usually use this phrase to hint that they likely ask you to log on in the evening or at weekends – despite your personal schedule.
It suggests that you always have to be ‘on’ which completely underestimates any work/life balance you’re hoping to have.
While flexible working is the goal here, an official ‘end’ to the working day is also important. So any suggestion that you essentially need to ‘keep working until the project is done’ is not healthy.
2: ‘We’re like a family’
This used to be an attractive thing to hear as a prospective employee but now it just sounds creepy.
No company should want you to be as invested in them as you are your actual family.
This phrase also suggests that you’ll need to offer extreme loyalty and ‘muck in’ to get the job done. Probably not for a fair wage either.
3: ‘You don’t need to come to the office if you’re ill’
Working from home has a lot of advantages but it’s not necessarily flexible. Many companies still see home working as a bit of a treat for employees. And some even think that WFH is a great solution when you’re sick.
Being unwell requires rest.
Not physically coming into an office is great as you won’t spread germs. But you also won’t get any better if you’re not allowing yourself to rest and recover.
4: ‘We have a supportive culture for working parents’
This is great to hear, especially if you’re planning on starting a family soon. However, a lot of claims from companies are only skin deep.
They might wax lyrical about the support they offer to parents returning to work but the parental leave may be minimal.
5: ‘Flexible, Intentional Working’
The pandemic saw a massive shift in flexible and home working. What was once a rarity, offered only to a select number of employees, soon became the norm for companies to stay afloat. Some employers have decided to keep the home or hybrid working patterns while others very much want a full-time return to the office.
However, the term ‘return to the office’ is off-putting to many candidates and so employers have been a bit crafty.
Some new phrases that have been coined include ‘flexible, intentional working’ and ‘work appropriately’.
But dig a little deeper and it seems like these buzzwords and catchy phrases are just another form of fake flexibility.
As a candidate, there are many things you can do to ensure that your new role is right for you. Remember, interviews go both ways so don’t be afraid to ask some pressing questions before accepting a role. If benefits are offered, make sure you find out how they play out in practice and ask specifically about the employees who have used them.
You should also look out for a high turnover rate in staff as that’s usually a red flag. A good way for potential candidates to get a really good idea of a company and to see if their claims about flexibility are true, is to speak to current or past employees. LinkedIn offers a unique way to reach out to employees of a company you’re interested in so there are no nasty surprises when you accept a new role.
Take a look at some trusted flexible employers with Find Your Flex here.
It’s really common to feel alone. The pandemic has fuelled this even further. We all relate to the saying “we’re all in the same storm, but in very different boats”.
The feeling that everyone is struggling has become normal.
This is unfortunate because it leads to the feeling we should be able to “get on with things” even when life feels more difficult. Maybe you feel afraid to “bother” someone else with your struggle, when the person you are “bothering” is in their own storm too?
As mums many of us have experienced feeling like this before. When someone asks “how are you” and you answer “I’m fine” when the honest answer is that you’re not?
Is this the approach you take in your career too? Answer this question more honestly….
What are we afraid of when it comes to career growth?
Does sharing we are struggling make us weak?
Are we scared we’ll be perceived as not coping at work, if we share that we don’t know how to navigate the next step in our working world? Could others perceive we’re not juggling family and work life successfully enough?
I had a coaching call with a highly intelligent, extremely compassionate and successful woman last week.
This woman is under a lot of pressure at work, as are all of her team. She has spoken to “the powers that be” about her teams stress levels and the impact to their wellbeing. Also she is putting as much as she can in place to alleviate things for them.
I asked “what about you”?
It materialised, she’d been doing the “well it’s busy of course, but I’m fine” approach. She wasn’t “fine” at all. Admitting she wasn’t fine would feel like she was failing: letting people down and giving the impression she can’t cope. She did recognise that if, in three months she breaks down, she’ll be asked, “why didn’t you say something”?
Of course, our conversation was much bigger than this and I truly hope the work we did together has helped her gain a new perspective and understand that honesty is important.
Who’s supporting you and your career growth?
McKinsey found, 18 months after the start of the pandemic, women on average felt more burnt out than men.
Given that the stats show women picked up more of the home-school slack and continued to bare more (on average) of the ‘mental load’ at home, this isn’t a surprise.
McKinsey also found that women are doing more to rise to the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) challenges and contributing to wellbeing agendas in the workplace, more than ever before. (click here for the full McKinsey article)
They are taking on more work at home and in the office. With this comes a higher risk of burnout. Which in turn may mean many women will remove themselves from leadership opportunities in the future.
This is hardly helping to change the status quo and reduce the gender pay gap.
This got me thinking about how us women work.
It’s clear what we do is nothing short of fantastic.
But are we engaging with others to support us?
If we have the “I’m here to support people and look after their wellbeing, but not my own” approach, that is fast-track to total burnout and exhaustion. It’s evident that fear of failure and perception from others that we aren’t coping, traps many of us into staying stuck in this inefficient work mentality.
If you’re reading this and thinking “Rebecca is literally talking about me” – what may help you?
Allies. Get lots of them to support your career growth.
In different shapes and sizes.
Allies add more value to your career and life in general than you can ever imagine.
Allies may help you
talk things through
bring new perspective
introduce you to new people or areas
advocate for you into areas you may otherwise not have access…
Through all of these connections, your confidence will be boosted, you’ll gain new evidence to show you CAN do things you thought you couldn’t.
You may even realise you’re only human and it is ok to be honest, vulnerable and successful – all at once. Nobody is good at everything and there is no such thing as “Superwoman”.
Where can you find allies?
Whilst I strongly believe employers hold responsibility for taking care of their employees, we also need to take some initiative and responsibility ourselves. If we are to grow in our careers, it’s down to us to seek out our own allies. They can help us develop in a range of ways. So who might they be?
Here’s some examples:
Sponsors will help you build credibility. They can use their position of privilege to sponsor your cause or goal.
They can help position you where you want to be and support your career growth.
So, if you’re striving for the next step but finding it hard to access the right people or places, you probably need a sponsor.
The feeling of going it alone and all the self-doubt that can creep in can quickly push you down. Having a sponsor to elevate you and talk things over with and who can help position you, can work wonders.
>>WHERE TO GET ONE?
Maybe you can find someone more senior in your workplace to mentor you who can act as a sponsor? Think also about people outside of your workplace, who do you know that is successful in the area you are striving to reach who can be your sponsor elsewhere?
Amplifiers are able to “shout” for you in a crowded space, where you may not ordinarily be heard. They will help you have a voice. So if you’re struggling to get your message to the right people, who may be an amplifier for you?
>> WHERE TO GET ONE:
The Find Your Flex team can definitely help you find employers who are open to conversations around all modes of flexible employment opportunities.
Maybe you feel like every time you apply to a job you are just another faceless applicant in a crowded market. Who do you know – or could get to know – that works there already? They can be your amplifier!
Advocates are able to use their power, influence, status or seniority to bring you into their circle.
This can be helpful in a multitude of circumstance. Whether that’s the next career step, or simply needing someone to tell you the pressure you are putting yourself under is too much.
Rather than feeling like you are demonstrating your inability to cope (highly unlikely to be true by the way!), who can help advocate for you and your team?
Using a more senior or experienced voice may be the key to being heard and finding better ways of working.
>> WHERE TO GET THIS?
To find your advocate you must be honest and even a little vulnerable. Find that person who already has a “seat at the table” that you want to be sitting at. Share with them what you are trying to achieve so they can be your voice in their already existing circle of trust and influence.
Scholars are ready to listen and learn about things that impact your ability to reach your goals and can help to act or influence change. Are you working on what feels like an impossible task because one thing in your organization persistently gets in the way? Who could that scholar be that is ready to listen and understand and help remove that?
>>WHERE TO GET THIS:
This will really depend on your struggle. For example, maybe everyone else is physically present in a meeting at 4pm that you simply cannot be in due to childcare commitments. This may impact your ability to reach a certain goal as you never hear the important stuff first hand. Who may be willing to hear and learn from this and influence change? Maybe you feel there is a diversity & Inclusion issue that stops you reaching your goals due to unconscious bias. Will increasing your network and raising awareness help?
A confidant will create a safe space to express your fears, frustrations and needs – and help you navigate through them. This is that person you can be truly honest and vulnerable with. I put myself in this category as a career coach. In the example I shared above with my client, I was acting as her confidant. Nobody in her organization will ever hear that conversation, but they will, hopefully, see the results. The results will enable her to approach things in a slightly different way but gain a positive impact for her and her team.
A connector is willing and able to share useful connections to help you towards your goals.
We all know them. That person who always says “oh, I should put you in touch with X! You two would really get along / they could really help you with that / they know all about that”. These people are great for so many reasons – especially when you’re struggling, can’t see the next steps and don’t have the right connections.
SO TAKE ACTION!
You are not an island.
Nobody wins when you hit burnout or stay struggling in a job that is no longer right for you.
So let me leave you with this:
What is your struggle?
What is the one (or two & THREE!) thing that feels hardest right now?
What would you like it to look like instead?
With that in mind, what type of ally (or allies) could help you with that?
Who are they and what needs to happen for you to start that conversation? Think outside the box –allies could be peers, mentors, previous colleagues, mentors, coaches…
Engaging and building ally-ships can take some time – which you may say you don’t have. However, one thing I can guarantee is, by shifting your mind-set this way and taking time to do so, you’ll always find new ways to do things you never thought were possible. There are no prizes for doing everything alone.
The returner programme from Wells Fargo to help you Glide back into a finance career, a bank that values its people.
If you’ve worked in finance but been on a voluntary career break for 2 years or more, let’s be really honest; the prospect of returning to work full-time can feel daunting.
Then add into the mix the last 18 months haven’t exactly been ‘normal’ for anyone and suddenly the prospect of work becomes nerve-wracking.
While many of us are desperate for a change and new work opportunities, any opportunity would ideally be delivered with kindness and compassion.
Nobody needs to be chucked straight into the deep end of a new job to see whether they sink or swim, that’s a tactic best retired to the pre-pandemic work history books.
If finding a ‘compassionate new opportunity’ is resonating with you, then please, please READ ON!
Find Your Flex are helping American Bank Wells Fargo, spread the word on their amazing Returners Programme, aptly named Glide.
Wells Fargo are a bank with a genuine people-centric approach towards employees and client’s alike.
If you’ve got several years finance experience under your belt and want to take part in an 8-week Returner Programme to test the waters with a potential new employer, then this FULLY PAID* internship-style programme, could be exactly the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.
(*at what your full-time salary would be should you be offered a role after the 8-week virtual programme).
Wells Fargo are recruiting across their London, Dublin and Düsseldorf offices and this programme gives you a brilliant opportunity to get to know the company and glide into work in the most supported way.
Here’s our FYF impartial run-down to the Glide programme and Wells Fargo as a prospective employer.
Glide Relaunch Internship
Starting this September 2021 for 8 weeks, this virtual programme will help anyone who’s been out of the workplace for 2 years or more, due to personal commitments.
In years gone by, prolonged time away from work was considered a bad thing.
The opposite is true for this bank.
They honestly value diverse talent and unique life experiences.
They understand unconventional pathways can actually contribute to higher levels of success and appreciation in a work setting. How refreshing is that?
Over the 8-week course, you would be fully supported by a Program Manager (albeit virtually at the moment), who will ensure you have the time you need to update and refresh your skills and undergo any further training that may be required.
There’s also ample opportunity to network with senior & successful leaders from across the business, who are more than happy to share their expertise and knowledge, providing you with everything you need, should you want to become a future leader yourself, should become the right path for you.
You’ll also meet the very best of Wells Fargo talent and get time to really interact with them. This will give you an honest feel for the unique values and culture at the heart of the business, from that all-important employee perspective. You’ll also engage with the line of business you’d be considering working a full-time role within, if the fit feels right at the end of those 8 weeks.
If you want to see some previous candidate experiences from candidates that went through the Glide programme in the U.S last year, take a look at these stories.
Wells Fargo as a Find Your Flex Employer of Choice?
As the quest for diversity and inclusion within UK business finally gets the attention it needs, you’ll be reassured to know this bank has passionately believed in the value of diversity & progress, since its inception in 1852.
Wells Fargo is constantly striving to make their organisation as diverse and representative as possible and aim to foster an inclusive culture within every office.
While we don’t believe in stereotyping at Find Your Flex, currently the majority of participants on UK Returner schemes are female and there’s no getting away from it yet.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 1.8 Million UK women (and 0.2 million men) leave paid employment to take care of their family.
These figures exclude the very small number of mothers or carers who receive small amounts of paid income.
Given this sobering stat, we felt it was important to highlight the Wells Fargo median gender pay gap of 11.8% in 2020, which was down (at 19.4%) on 2019 figures.
When you consider the average gender pay gap across the broad spectrum of “finance” is 31%, this is worth celebrating.
They really do welcome the fresh perspectives that diverse views bring and that’s really important for any employee to know, when making a decision about where to invest your time and next career move. Every voice needs to be valued and heard.
The Wells Fargo 2017-2020 Diversity and Inclusion strategy collaborated with the EMEA Diversity Council and the UK Women’s Team Member Network (TMN) to increase female equality and their female senior leadership model continues into 2021; this extended role out of the Glide Returner Programme into the UK being a large part of it and they actively encourage female employees across the EMEA countries, to take up mentoring roles.
Those all-important Employee Benefits?
Employees get a brilliant selection of benefits which can be personalised to support their health and well-being, retirement, financial security, and work-life needs, including time off to participate in community service activities that are of meaning to them.
The financial benefits, as you may expect from a bank, are genuinely ‘valuable’. Employees will be impressed with the level of financial security they will be offered. A comfort to know you’d be prepared should life ever throw a curveball at you and your family.
In terms of annual leave, you get 25 days holiday and they have a Paid Time Off (PTO) purchase programme, allowing staff to buy up to an additional 5 days leave.
Plus, they have Emergency Back Up Care – if your regular arrangements for dependents aren’t available. Something every parent or carer will find very reassuring to know is there, even if you never need to use it.
And finally – are they really ‘Flexible’?
At the moment, all Wells Fargo employees are remote but will be expected to return to the office from October or November in a hybrid model.
Agreements will be put in place between individuals and their Line Manager.
Across EMEA they operate according to the Flexible Work Arrangement which refers to a long or short-term arrangement which can modify an individual’s working hours / pattern or location of work in an adhoc, fixed term or permanent basis.
If you feel Wells Fargo could be the employer for you, apply today:
Summer is when most people want to switch off and take a break from dealing with their careers. Job search and hiring slows down, people go on holiday and thinking about ways to get ahead with your career is probably not top of the list. We want to have fun and enjoy time with family and friends.
However, who says you cannot do both? Why not carve out some time and be smart about your career activities so that you can enjoy the summer and take small steps to move your career forward.
Here are five simple steps you could take this summer:
Socialise and build connections
Why not make the most of BBQs, social meet ups and other fun events happening over the summer and meet as many interesting people as possible. Plant seeds and let people know what you are thinking of doing next in your career. Could you spearhead a meet up with old colleagues this summer? Forge new relationships and re-connect with old friends? Use LinkedIn to connect professionally and develop your network?
Build a schedule
With the summer comes longer days, ensure your career does not go by the wayside by putting some time aside to make this your focus. This might be as little as 15 minutes a day or an hour a week. Small steps will go a long way to move you forward and boost your motivation, knowing you are progressing.
Career planning map
Carve out some time to reflect on what your next career steps are. You could use a mind map to help you brainstorm your ideas. What role do you want to move into? What industry do you want to work in? What kinds of companies are you interested in? Get your career planning completed ready to start marketing your skills and expertise for the role you want this September. If you are stuck you may like to check out ourCareer Clarity course [hyperlink https://www.coachingpartners.co.uk/career-clarity], which provides flexible learning over the summer to fit in around you.
Learn something new
Learning something new can have a great impact on our physical and mental well-being. This could be just what you need to spark some new creativity and motivation or get a fresh perspective on your career.
Update your LinkedIn profile
Taking small steps to get career ready does not need to take a huge amount of time. Why not dedicate an hour a week over 3 weeks to refresh your LinkedIn profile ready to market your skills and expertise after the holidays or simply to start building connections and set up automated job searches.
You can enjoy the summer and push forward with your career plans. These simple steps will help you get career ready for September.
Parental leave – or maternity and paternity leave as it is commonly known – has been under scrutiny for some time. The introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) in 2015 was a small step towards recognising both parents play a significant role in the first year of a child’s life. However, with only 7% of workers taking advantage of this (You Gov and Winckworth), is there more to be done by organisations themselves?
In theory SPL offers a solution to gender equality. However, it hasn’t created the big shift it intended to do. There are also many more factors to consider as parents. Birth recovery, for birth-giving parents, breastfeeding and bonding with their new child is important. However, often comes the burden of feeling like this extended leave will be detrimental to career progression for mothers. Fathers – who in most cases get the grand total of two weeks off which can suffer with a severely impacted work-life-balance. Fathers miss important milestones with their children and this out-dated, traditional model simply reinforces mum dealing with the kids, dad going to work.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Of course, if this suits your family, there is nothing wrong with this. But what about for those families where this isn’t ideal? Also for same-sex parents and adoptive parents, leave entitlement can be significantly less in some organisations. Traditional parental leave and SPL do not offer the choices some parents’ desire. It is therefore down to the organisations themselves in charge of such policies to take action.
One organisation that has done just that is Nestlé. They recognised the balance of family life and work are of paramount importance to employees. Thus saw the need for change and modernisation. Nestlé introduced their Parental Support Policy.
For Nestlé there are no longer separate policies and entitlements for maternity, paternity, adoption and surrogacy leave. They have done a fantastic job of bringing all scenarios into one policy. Not only is this incredibly easy for employees to navigate, it also encourages a gender-neutral approach. Additionally, employees are eligible for parental leave from day one of employment. As a Career Coach working mainly with mums, I know all too well the stories of “sticking it out”. Staying in a job you aren’t happy in simply because you need the good maternity leave on offer from your employer. With this available from day one at Nestlé, this will no doubt also support their hiring and attraction strategy.
Parental Leave – The Nestlé Way
The core element of the new parental leave policy at Nestlé centres around choosing to take Primary or Secondary Caregiver leave. As Primary, this looks and feels a lot like standard maternity leave (Up to 52 weeks of leave, pay up to 18 weeks with 10 KIT Days). Secondary Caregiver Leave is much more generous than standard paternity leave. Secondary Caregiver Leave allows you to take up to 12 weeks off at any stage within the first year of the new child entering your family. Four of these are fully paid. The key thing is either can apply to you – whether you are giving birth or not.
I shared some of the detail with some working mum groups on Facebook. Some were a little shocked. Why would a mum only want 12 weeks off? Doesn’t she need to recover and establish breastfeeding? Don’t the titles reinforce stereotypes of being a primary or a secondary carer for your own child? My answer to all of this is, “but isn’t in fantastic to have the choice? Isn’t it wonderful to not dictate what should happen in your family because of gender or route to having a child?”
The reality is, since the introduction of the policy just 7% of those taking primary caregiver leave have been male. However, prior to the policy, the option would not have been available in this form – only via the constraints of SPL could they have got anywhere near. We can expect numbers to increase as at present it’s early stages.
Holly Birkett, Co-Director of the Equal Parenting Project at the University of Birmingham, has spoken about the positive knock-on effect. “While at an individual level more time off and maternity pay for women may look positive, actually it can lead to more women dropping out and it affecting their earnings and career progression (negatively) over time,” she says.
Having a choice about parental leave at Nestlé is key
Several of those I conversed with about this policy really saw the benefit. The key theme being the benefit of choice. Many birth-giving mothers may well still take Primary Caregiver Leave. However, for any that would prefer to return to work sooner, there is now a choice.
Nic Hammarling, Head of Diversity at Pearn Kandola says “I constantly hear from men that they want the opportunity to take a more active role in caring for their children. However, many are intimidated by the idea of asking their employer for time off work. In a workplace environment, to be nurturing and caring isn’t often expected of men and. As such, many are wary of the backlash they may receive for asking for time away to be with their children. Increasing paternity leave from two to four weeks, for example, could actually move us further away from equality because it still reinforces that the mother should be the primary carer,” she has said. With Nestlé’s policy not stating maternity or paternity, but allowing parents to choose the role they take is a huge move towards a more equal space.
This benefit was also noted by a mum who works in a senior role within FMCG. She shared “I would imagine, when a father-to-be shares that the baby is on the way, just having this policy in place means a conversation happens. A Conversation at work that asks which type of leave best suits his family. This results in a further conversation at home to make that decision. This can only be positive as it triggers the switch to talk about balance. To talk about who will do what and how involved will each parent be. It allows the father to have a conversation he may not otherwise have felt comfortable raining himself at work. If this was an option for my husband when my children were born, I think we would have gone for it. At least with the second one – with my partner taking Primary Caregiver Leave”.
Nestlé supporting decisions
The mum I quote above is right. Nestlé provide all parents to be with a decision tree to help them figure out which type of leave best suits their family unit. They also ensure parents know that they can take advantage of parental mentoring through the Parent Pal mentoring scheme, join the online parenting community Parent Talk, and use an online parent coaching app to further support their parenthood journey.
There of course is still a long way to go to get this totally right. I doubt as a society we will ever reach the perfect plan for parental leave. As more organisations shift their thinking as Nestlé has, we will begin to see the change we all hope for.
Nestlé and inclusivity
Of course many families will still choose to take the more traditional pattern of leave. This is totally fine – not everybody needs or wants to do anything different. But by allowing choice and recognising all parents equally, Nestlé at least are moving towards becoming much more, truly inclusive. I can’t wait to see the journey at Nestlé and learn more about phase two.
Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. FindRebecca via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.
Here at The Find Your Flex group we talk a lot about flexible working, it is after all the bread and butter of what we do! But, recently we’ve also been talking a lot about output models of work too. Over the years our thoughts around flexible working have evolved. We really feel output based working is the key to TRUE flexible working. We’d love to see employers embrace judging an employee on their output over how, when and where they work.
We know organisations are at various stages of implementing change when it comes to the way we work. It’s no secret that the pandemic has forced many into implementing changes quicker than expected. It’s also clear that those who already worked flexibly adapted much quicker.
As with any major change in culture and behaviours, all stakeholders need to be committed if it is to be a success. Therefore employers and managers need to be able to adopt, drive, support and manage the change. But we feel employees also have a responsibility.
Who is really responsible for making this work?
There are endless reports, articles, blogs and opinion pieces about what the future holds – what do employees want? Back to the office? Home-working? A hybrid model? The focus is endlessly on what employers are doing to respond to ensure a better work model for their employees, with the core focus on location of work and it’s flexibility. We understand driving organisational cultural change is multifactorial and a hugely studied area. Of course strong and ethical leadership is key to driving positive change. But, We wanted to explore the responsibility of the employee too.
What responsibility do employees have in making any such future models a success? What can we do as employees to ensure the result is a success. Perhaps it’s the way we engage.
Engagement and wellbeing is a collective responsibility!
Employers have a responsibility to provide the tools, the tech and the trust, but we must be the adopters and change agents to ensure a culture that is a success. If we wish to be trusted, we must also trust – our employers and our colleagues. We must be transparent in what is and isn’t working for us and in sharing and communicating with others. If we are leaders ourselves, ensuring we engage our teams is critical.
The organisations who prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing – and who have the workforce that embed this into their culture – will be the winners, and so will their employees. Allowing people the time and tech to work remotely is a minute part of the journey we are on. For an output model to work we need to engage in ways that may be unfamiliar to regular working practices. It will be the way we engage new joiners. The way we empower teamwork. How we lead by example and foster a culture of inclusivity and engagement like never before.
For many employees, an output model may be the ideal to flex around our lives. But, there still exists the real danger of burnout and exhaustion. For example if home-working forms a part of this, boundaries are blurred. The work-day is often extended and mental well-being can be affected when the commute time, often used to transition from work to home mentally, is erased.
If output is the pure focus, could there be danger of over-working to achieve these outputs – not speaking out if the load is too high? Employers need to provide space for employees to use their voice, but employees need to then respond. Employees will have a period of time in which they need to adapt. To have conscious boundaries and strategies to look after their wellbeing. When we are not in the office it is harder for colleagues to notice changes in mood and overload. Again, we are collectively responsible for creating the culture of a team whilst not necessarily being in the same location at the same time.
Office dynamics – the invisible employees
Several people I have spoken to recently, who previously were all for at least a hybrid model, if not 100% remote, are already seeing a shift in dynamics. One mum shared recently when she went to the office for the first time in a year, the dynamic was entirely different. There were a much larger proportion of men present plus younger colleagues who do not have family commitments nor the space to work easily from home.
On the one hand it was great to see those that needed to be in could be, but she shared fears mums disappearing and this turning round to bite us on the bum. If output is the focus, the output of those that choose to not be visibly present in the office must be recognised. Mums have been the most impacted group of the workforce due to the pandemic. There is clearly a need to ensure a divide is not upon us – mums at home, men and younger people in the office resulting in an “out of sight, out of mind” issue that in turn affects perceived output and involvement in decisions.
Engage and remain engaged
To me this all shows the key thing is choices and well-thought out decisions by both employers and employees. We need to find ways to engage but also take responsibility to remain engaged. To demonstrate our output positively. To not slip from a presenteeism culture for all pre-pandemic, to recognition for presenteeism, within groups that choose to be office based, post-pandemic.
A truly flexible, output model must be based on trust. Maybe the next steps in this new world should see employees measured on a whole host of success markers that did not exist in the working world pre-Covid. Imagine if we could be measured not only on results, but on engagement of ourselves in our hybrid world and engagement of others; on wellbeing metrics to ensure we are able to perform healthily which in turn makes for better output.
The positives are clear – we have many choices opening up to us. We may decide to live somewhere else as we don’t need to commute to the office everyday. We hopefully will have a degree of choice of how working hours fit into our lives – as long as we get the results needed. What is also clear is this cannot be to the detriment of our mental health where we all become islands of solo workers allowing loneliness and burnout to creep in. We all have a responsibility to make this work for ourselves and those around us.
Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.