Yesterday, I brought my daughter into my office for a visit. She loves to see where Mummy works, likes sitting at my desk, twirling round in my chair, and playing with my tiny abacus—pretty much exactly what Mummy does in a day, to be honest.
But as we left—at 10 AM—she said “Mummy, are all the men and ladies who work here going home now, too?”
I said no, that everyone else would be there for the whole day, “until teatime.” And in her very three-year old way, she was wide-eyed with bemusement, spreading her hands and asking, “But whhhhhhy?”
And as I opened my mouth to answer, I realized; I don’t really know why we all have to sit in offices up and down the country from breakfast time to tea time, five days a week. And so I said the only thing I could think of: “I don’t know, darling. Those are the rules.”
And since then it has been on my mind.
Now, I should say at this point, I’m lucky enough to work at an organization that allows me some flexibility. I work from home regularly, usually one day a week, and I make it a split day; I work from around 8 AM to 3 PM then collect the kids, do the whole bath-bed-story routine, and then do a bit more work once the house has settled into peace once again.
And, I have to say, it counts for a lot. To work somewhere that I can incorporate into my family life, instead of letting my family life suffer for my work, is something I’m really grateful for. And it makes me a better, more motivated employee, more likely to stick around for years to come, rather than plying my trade elsewhere.
My working week? I make it work for me. I’ve changed “the rules.” And here are a few tips on how you can do the same.
It’s pretty obvious—and I apologize if you don’t need this level of hand-holding—but if you don’t ask, you don’t get, as my Gran used to say. You might work for an organization that’s considering offering more flexibility but isn’t sure how interested the workforce might be, or the higher-ups may never have considered it at all. If you merely ask, you can be the forerunner, the one who proves the benefits of being flexible. And then your colleagues will bow down to you forever more.
(For more on how to ask the right way, check out Elizabeth Lowman’s tips.)
2. Get Your Fact On
That said, although loads of organizations now offer flexible working, companies like Yahoo have even banned all home working, saying it has become a barrier to collaboration, team effectiveness, and fostering a company culture. That’s probably what you’re going to be up against against, so make sure your reasoning lays out the benefits in a way that your manager can’t refuse.
For instance, does your boss know that, according to londonlovesbusiness.com, 47% of workers try to appear more visible when working from home by sending more email and making more calls than they would in the office? If you’re in a creative role, you might want to mention that 38% of workers feel more creative when they’re able to work more flexibly. Home workers also call in sick less often; they can be less stressed and tired, as they don’t have to commute any farther than the kitchen, and they may feel able to work from home on a day where they couldn’t face bringing their cold into the office.
Use all of these facts to your advantage.
3. Prove It
If the numbers aren’t making your case, try this: When you are struggling to complete a large piece of work or desperate for some peace so that you can concentrate on finishing an important report, get out of the office. Settle down wherever you feel most productive—at home, in the local café, it’s up to you—shut down your email, and focus on nothing but the task ahead.
Once you complete it in record time, it’ll be cast iron proof that you can get more quality work done when you’re not at your desk surrounded by ringing phones, grumpy colleagues, and those people who say “Oh, are you eating lunch? I’ll just ask you one quick question then.”
4. Be Open to Compromise
Your company might not be ready for 21st century working practices, and you may have to be the person to push it kicking and screaming into a bright and shiny future. But you don’t want its progress to be at your expense. If you’re offered a trial, of maybe one day a week at home, with a review after weeks—take it. That’s your foot in the door (your own front door, weirdly enough).
And don’t forget: The point of mixing up your working week is to enhance your work-life balance, letting you enjoy your work more and making you an effective and loyal employee. You can make up the time spent reading this article after the kids are in bed. Peace, perfect peace.