Home > Commuting, London, parenthood, travel, working > Recession? Sorted.

Recession? Sorted.

If I said that I could, in one fell swoop

  • improve work/life balance for those people who’d like it
  • reduce congestion at rush hour
  • prevent layoffs
  • decrease the need for dependents to be farmed out to childcare/old people’s homes
  • increase staff loyalty & reduce churn
  • make it easier to retain experienced staff nearing retirement age

would you be interested in finding out how?

The answer is simple – flexible working, offered to all – men and women, parents or not, at all ages.

I know I’m biased, due to having a toddler, and also about to be made redundant due to financial issues, but I do think if we reconsider the 9-6 commuter presentee-ism rat race there are many benefits that people would appreciate, and would often be more than happy to sacrifice a portion of their salary for.

Many people during the recession have been offered the chance of /coerced into working shorter hours in order to save the company money – often on the premise that this is a way to retain the jobs’ existence. I’d be really interested to hear if this has been met with enthusiasm where it’s been offered. I know that when I returned after maternity leave on 3 days a week, then increased to 4 days a week, many people – not just fellow parents were envious of this flexibility.

Add to this the man hours lost to rush hour traffic, the difficulty in juggling school opening times and holidays, the fact that many jobs can be done sitting at a computer almost anywhere rather than having to be in an office in an urban centre, and there are clear reasons that it should be considered, not just for parents (yes, of both sexes) but for all employed people.

Many people have outside interests, education, social commitments, transport issues that would make working a full 40 hour week difficult or impossible, or frankly – just not worth the constant juggling. If we’re all going to have to work till we’re 70 anyway then why not make as much of it bearable as you can, and prevent ourselves burning out.

I’d be mad to not see the difficulties of course – there would need to be a massive shift in the lack of trust and presentee-ism attitude amongst some employers, that assumes that staff are shirking if they’re not under a watchful eye. Also the logistics of ensuring coverage for clients/critical issues may be hard, but no harder than organising the rota of a supermarket with a few hundred staff with differing hours, surely? A bit of give and take can solve most problems I’m sure.

Some jobs require face to face meetings, and for staff to be contactable at expected hours – all this is possible within a flexible framework; and even jobs that would be difficult to fulfill in a short week can be shared between more than one person, with the understanding that they work together to make sure the job is done, and flex around each others’ needs if necessary.

Most worries about staff performance can surely be addressed with a combination of performance/delivery based targets and guidelines; and management who are willing to delegate responsibility to the employee themselves to get the job done, within a reasonable limit.

Please let me know if you’ve come across this in your workplace – I’m intrigued to see if I’m being over-optimistic (which I am wont to be) or not.

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  1. July 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I agree that the glass half full approach in a world of less security, works far more constructively on an individual basis….and as we shift even further away from the collective workforce, as each of us value our expertise and ‘uniqueness’ from an intellectual and experiential perspective, and thus our bargaining power, we need to acknowledge that the needs of our dependents as well as ourselves, beyond work, are maybe the one bastion where the collective approach has advantages. Therefore, I think parents need to have a more dynamic relationship with employers about the need for in work childcare facilities, or at least, facilities that are funded by a parents and companies? I’m not sure how that might work,practically, but I do know that being a woman with a child in business is still seen as an issue for SME’s…and that is a crying shame, because they are the organisations that need the female perspective more than anyone, in my humblest opinion. Perhaps SME’s need to club together in local areas to support the childcare needs of their employees, it seems to be how much of the NHS in London operates, and surely there’s a business opportunity in there for some budding entrepreneur?

  2. Richard
    July 20, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Right enough. And the transition of the economy to non-factory work makes it much more viable, too, providing senior and middle managers can make the shift to measuring outputs (work achieved, billings made, content produced, quality delivered) ratter than inputs (time seen at your desk, sweat, swearing).

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