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Working in a Post-Covid World.

March 23rd 2020. The day we heard our Prime Minister say “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home”. The day working from home, indefinitely, began.

Fast-forward over 13 months. Many are still working full-time from home. Some are gradually finding their way back to the office. There are organisations that have managed things brilliantly and seen this as an opportunity to shape flexible working. Some have managed things terribly and are already making unnecessary demands to fully return to the office, with no clear business need. Some employees are desperate to get back, some are desperate to retain the flex they have had forced upon them.

As we emerge from these unprecedented times, the waters feel muddy. There is little consistency across employers or industries. What is clear is that many of us are feeling the burn out from living at work with little to no break and a year of no holidays.

So how are we planning for the post-Covid future?

Many organisations have hit the press for their positive moves towards supporting employees well-being and flexibility. For example, Dropbox have made working from home a permanent move. Microsoft is moving to a 50:50 homeworking to office working model. John Lewis head office is taking a hybrid or blended working approach. Having spoken to a wide range of parents, the general consensus seems to be a 50% office based role will become the norm.

These approaches make total sense given a study by The University Of Southampton found nine in ten employees feel they had got at least as much, if not more, work done at home as in the office. Employees also shared that they have benefited from the flexibility to organise their tasks and discretion to make decisions about when they do their work from home.

How this effects parents?

Whilst it is clear from this study and many others – such as the research conducted by the childcare provider, Bright Horizons – working parents are overwhelmingly in favour of a continuation of flexible hours and some form of hybrid working. Christelle who works for a large energy company shared:

Having the flexibility to do the school run and eat together at the start and end of the day as a family, has had a huge positive impact on our family dynamic”.

Likewise John, who works for an IT company said:

The time I have had to become more involved in my son’s life has been amazing. If allowed to continue, I believe this will have a life-long impact to our relationship, having been around so much in his formative years”.

It is also clear the general consensus is that the pandemic has allowed us to prove such a model could work. However, more than half of employees involved in the Bright Horizons research thought their employers were likely to be unresponsive to demands for greater flexibility once the pandemic dissipates. Denise Priest of Bright Horizons shared “There seems to be disagreement between some organisations and their workers about what normality should mean”. This is backed up by the research I conducted. A mum working for a large US Bio-sciences organisation is shared her worries that, “whilst all the right things are being done now, will these have the longevity that society needs?”

So what is the right answer?

The only very clear thing in all of this is one size does not fit all. We knew this anyway, but employees, pre-covid, bent over backwards in many case to mould themselves, their families and other commitments to fit the requirements of work. Whilst we have been missing social contact, there is a clear preference amongst the majority of parents to combine office with working from home in the future. Seven in ten (73%) employees wish to adopt a hybrid work arrangement – blending working from home with the communality of the office – and to retain the flexibility and control over their working pattern from which they have benefited under lockdown.

I am hearing of a huge amount of examples of organisations asking their employees what works for them? One FMCG company has even gone as far as introducing a whole new contractual way of working. Allowing some individuals to work on a retained project basis. They are then able to dictate their working hours – fitting work to their lives, rather than fitting life to their work.

All this said, there are some that working from home is not good for. I say “not good for” because I don’t just mean convenience. I mean their mental health is suffering because of the isolation this can bring. If you are younger, live alone or in a shared house environment. If you wish to reap the social rewards of the young, working generation. Many of these people NEED the office environment in order to protect their mental health. This sentiment was clearly shared by one person I spoke with from the Oil & Gas industry, who said:

I have genuine concerns for a single, female colleague who has clearly struggled mentally with the stay at home message”.

Flexible Working is the way forward.

It truly feels the power is shifting. People have proven a flexible model to suit individuals – IS achievable. There are organisations taking this on board and adapt to their staff. Allowing work to fit with life, rather than forcing employees into an unmanageable, unsustainable, unnecessary, unhealthy work pattern. These organisations will be the winners in the long run.

The 2021 Modern Families Index Spotlight points to potential discord ahead. 55% of respondents indicate their loyalty to their employer long term depends on employer’s reaction to the pandemic and beyond. As they continue to attempt to juggle work, child care and care of elderly relatives. Employers who recognise the priority of family life and provided practical support for staff will retain – and gain – talented employees. While those who have not will lose out. John, who I mentioned earlier, working in IT, very honestly shared this with me:

I will seek alternative employment if pushed too far to revert to old ways of working. It is clear this is a preference, but with no clear justification, in my organisation. Which could result in me seeking alternative employment”.

What about well-being support?

It seems many organisations are focusing on what the working week should look like. However, what hasn’t been shared as broadly is what organisations are doing to support the mental well-being of employees.

The University of Southampton Study shared that maintaining working from home during the pandemic, whilst may have been in some ways more efficient, has taken its toll on mental health and well-being. In fact, responses on this area in their study found ranking very low. 47 out of 100 – measured against the World Health Organisation WHO-5 global standard. AXA back this up further. Finding that two-thirds (64%) of those working across the UK and Europe said their stress levels increased compared to pre-pandemic. Of these, eight out of ten (81%) describe themselves as having a “poor” or “low” state of mind.

Given for many the kitchen table has become the office with home / work boundaries becoming uncontrollably blurred. It stands to reason that burnout is a very real prospect.

What are the effects of this?

On the flip side, organisations are planning for future and maybe even dictate what this future will look like. Although it may be that some do not feel ready to commute or be in the office. A mum working for a small start up shared with me:

I am not prepared to return until I am vaccinated. This has already happened for my boss so we are at slight odds around timing. Which is causing a bit of of stress and anxiety”.

Some have been shielding, may have vulnerable family members. Many have adapt childcare provisions and may not easily be able to reinstate wrap around care. Either because it is not available or because they are not inclined to revert back to the old ways. Such as running from breakfast club, to the train, to work, to after school clubs. And various other activities without having a minute for any family member to breathe.

As a backdrop the pandemic has triggered significant emotional, physical, and economic burdens:

  • Social isolation,
  • Working from home while caring for children and other family members
  • Exposure to the virus – personally, via loved ones, or from working on the front line
  • Experiences of long-covid

Mental health care advocates believe Covid can cause many to suffer from something close to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In August 2020 the CDC published results of a large US web-based survey of more than 5000 adults. In which over 40% demonstrated experiencing at least one adverse mental or behavioural health problem related to the pandemic. Including symptoms of anxiety or depression (30.9%), substance use to cope (13.3%) and considering suicide (10.7%). This suggests a flexible work environment is something employers must consider when working in a post-covid world.

What needs to be done?

Many parents have shared a number of initiatives their organisations are doing to support well-being. These include

  • virtual coffee chat drop-ins
  • no-meeting days
  • access to counselling
  • well-being allowances
  • access to the office for those struggling working from home

but is this enough?

Workers have proved they are highly adaptable in these unusual times. One senior music industry employee shared, the pandemic has propelled flexible working forward by ten years, if done right. However, employers’ focus must now be on well-being. On supporting people through this next phase of transition. Above all else it is our well-being and mental health that has suffered most. I wonder how well organisations will take account of this as a factor of our return? This is a whole new phase. A positive shift hopefully, but one that needs managing with great care and support.

For other insights into this subject, why not have a read on The Real Gender Impact of Covid-19. And the struggles women have faced during and potentially post-covid.

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Child Care Dads Flexible Careers Gender Pay Gap Parental Coaching Parenting and Work Professional Mums Work Journeys

Management- Where is the female talent?

A third of organisations globally have no female talent in senior management roles (market-inspector.co.uk).  This was reported before Covid, it has been reported Covid has had a disproportionate impact on the careers of women. A LinkedIn study found that women were less likely to be hired than men during peak lockdown periods. Despite more women being made redundant or leaving jobs. 

There are so many things that may be contributing to these damaging statistics. Are women not applying to roles due to prioritisation of the overwhelming childcare and home-schooling plunged upon them? Are men not doing enough to support women and so they feel they can’t apply for a new job? Do organisations discourage their male employees requesting the flexibility that would allow their female partners to re-engage into the workforce? Or are organisations not considering female talent in the same volume as those from men? And therefore, even if unintentionally, contributing to these statistics?

Given the data recently shared by Find Your Flex, it is clear, that application clicks are 79% female. 47% of their audience is male, this demonstrates there is a wealth of female talent actively seeking high value jobs. 

Sssshhhh… Daddy’s working

Sadly still live in a time where, in many households, women are seen as the parent. That they should do the lions share of childcare and household chores. Even when the playing field of working hours and the impact of the pandemic is equal. I hear endless comments from working mums across the country saying things like “it’s so hard trying to get it all done – the home-schooling and working plus trying to keep them from interrupting daddy all day”. Why can’t daddy be interrupted?! 

Of course it is not my place to judge how households decide to cope during this totally dire time. But if it has just been assumed the responsibility of the kids falls to mum then, please, for the sake of women across the land have a conversation. Plot out what needs to be done – all the home-schooling, chores – everything – and decide who does what. If this impacts daddy’s work schedule then, just like mummy, he needs to find ways to accommodate. (I should say here I know this isn’t the case in all households. Many dads are brilliant at sharing the load. But many just haven’t realised it’s a shared responsibility, or see their job as not flexible… Did they ask?).

It is okay to let go you know.

Women also need to let go. We cannot control everything. I had a word with myself at the start of this home-school period. I couldn’t be the gate-keeper – being the only one that can log onto Google Classroom and hand in work. The only one that remembers to look for supermarket deliveries and figures out what to eat every day. I sat and gave my husband a Google Classroom lesson on day two as day one almost broke me.

I don’t check the work hubby now does with the kids. He and the kids enjoy him engaging with them and seeing their learning. I don’t walk around in a passive aggressive mumbling rage so much as last time. Winning all round! The kids don’t get their iPads if their beds aren’t made and the playroom isn’t tidy. Mums need to relinquish responsibility and trust someone else to do some of what they see as their load. If not we will never have time or headspace to find that career opportunity which is waiting there for us.

Scared to say the ‘F’ word

But back to this 79% of females applying to roles on Find Your Flex. The talent is clearly there. Ready, willing and able to be hired and contribute to organisations. To bring the female perspective and skill set that all organisations need. It is known the roles advertised on Find Your Flex are open and ready to be flexible. I fear this isn’t the case across other sites and those organisations not showing up on this site. I still have conversations with coaching clients about approaching an organisation and asking for flexibility – like it’s a dirty word. Applying through Find Your Flex removes anxiety for those who need to have “the chat” during the recruitment process. 

In my opinion, shifting the balance begins with organisations showing the men of the world Flex is for all. Showing men to see working flexibly or part-time isn’t a negative reflection on their masculinity. Allowing men to be available in their families. Allowing them to grow stronger bonds as equal caregivers to their children. To make room for females to work equally – to not have working gender equality set back 50 years plus.

The job market is tough, but jobs are there and female talent most definitely is. The crisis could be an opportunity. An opportunity for organisations to invest and build more empathetic and flexible workplaces. To retain and attract those most impacted by this pandemic. Nurturing a work environment where women have equal opportunity to develop their careers. And men have equal opportunity to be present in their families.

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. 

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Child Care Mums Returning To Work

ShootForTheMoon With Mums Enterprise

Getting Mums Back Into Work

#ShootForTheMoon With Mums Enterprise

In June two members of the MummyJobs, DaddyJobs and FlexIsBest team attended The Mums Enterprise event in Manchester. We were so overwhelmed with the numbers that we plan to have the whole team there at the two day event in London in September. We spoke to so many mums from start to finish. It was so busy there was little time in between chats to even have a nibble of lunch! But what was clear is the large volume of mums who post maternity find themselves in a situation where they feel lost when it comes to the subject of careers.

It is fair to say the day was a huge success, not just for us but for Lindsey, Lucy and the Mums Enterprise team too.

We asked Lindsey how she thought the day went….

Well done Lindsey, Lucy and the rest of the team for an amazing Mums Enterprise event in Manchester. How are you feeling now it’s over?

Thanks so much, we feel relief. These events have grown so much and that has been a conscious decision but it also comes with added personal, professional and financial risk to do so.  With events – the outcome is unpredictable. We do all we can to ensure the day is as awesome as possible and obviously we market and promote the event and get pre registrations. The danger is you could still very well end up with a different outcome than expected. We feel so proud when we see our event busy and bustling, giving us a sense of relief that hard work was worth it.

It must have taken lots of organisation, blood, sweat and tears to get such an event together but the outcome was brilliant and inspired so many women. How many women attended and what’s the feedback you’ve received so far?

Yes it really does, we are in the exact same shoes as the visitors who attend.  We have babies, families, work from home with a remote team and have worked for three years bringing these events to the world.  They exist because I couldn’t go back to my city job after my first baby in 2013. I started an events business first before the idea struck for this in 2015 with the first events in 2016.

Feedback has been amazing. We get inundated with messages of thanks and appreciation that the events are here and that they are just so so needed. We know the talent is out there, which is why we are so confident in taking such huge risks to do what we do.

The events are inspirational. They offer practical advice, useful workshops, a great opportunity to meet like-minded and mums and discover real work or business opportunities. Opportunities many may not have known existed had they not attended.

BUT events are never perfect, we manage our business by conducting live tests.  For instance this event was the first event we kept open until 6pm. We wanted to see if mums would come after work or after school pick up.  Some did, but it wouldn’t warrant us staying open that late again. So in future we will most likely close the event around 4.30pm.

The next London event is another test, it will be the first time we have done a two day event and are trying one day to be a Saturday to see if that helps mums who are employed or can’t get the time off work, or can get help with the kids.

One thing is for certain we must get more employers who are recruiting involved. Being a small team and are limited to the time we can spend actively selling and reaching out to new businesses. We will do more, but I am very pleased to have had over 3,000 satisfied visitors at Manchester. I mean that’s just incredible.

The Mums Enterprise event was all set up to cater for children, with nannies and play areas set up in various locations. How important do you feel this was to encouraging mums to attend?

Ideally we want a full creche but these events cost a heck of a lot of money. It isn’t cheap getting 3000 mums in once place so we do the best we can. This was the first time we had nannies in the workshop rooms as a mid-way option to trying our best to help those with children. We also keep workshops to only 30 minutes with 15 minute intervals – we feel this also helps.

Next up is London on the 1st and 2nd of February 2019, what should we expect from this 2 day event?

Well it’s going to be quite similar to the Manchester event. The same features, content and 5 exhibitors zones across Boost, Business, Flexible Work, Opportunity and Retrain & UpSkill. This time I am considering adding some longer mastermind sessions. Those who already run a business need more in-depth information which can’t always be delved into within just 30 minutes.  But I need to work on the agenda and then decide.

But the London show is again totally free and as mentioned is our first two day event and we are trying out a Saturday for show #7.

I spent most of the day talking to mums from the MummyJobs.co.uk stand. So many mums feel at a crossroads in their careers or jobs now they have a family. So many feel they can’t return to work due to lack of flexibility or refusal to even discuss flexible working. Skills are waiting to be snapped up by employers. Employers must understand that by embracing flexible working they open up their doors to a wider talent pool.

What would you say to the employers who still make the assumption that flexible workers lack ambition?

 

Mummyjobs.co.uk is doing a fantastic job getting more employers onboard to highlight opportunities and careers. There is a huge movement happening. I wouldn’t say that employers don’t find flexible workers lack ambition. I think it is more about a shift and cultural change within a business that is the challenge.  For large organisations especially, such a drastic implementation of change is a huge deal. There must be a diverse array of execs on boards to the traditional man and his pipe in order for that to happen.

There is a huge movement and organisations are recognising that there really is a 4th revolution happening. Not just for mums but for the world the 9-5 will be extinct. It will happen and it’s the likes of Mums Enterprise, Mummyjobs.co.uk and many others who can help make change happen. It’s just going to take working together, supporting one another and not giving up. This is a long game.

#Shootforthemoon

Thank you

Mums Enterprise Events

Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances the above event has been cancelled.