We asked Lauren Roberts of Free Range Work Co to give us her thoughts on Flexible Working
What do you think of when I say ‘Flexible working’? A ‘Nice to have?’
I believe it’s a fundamental approach we need to take to the workplace for everyone – but especially for parents. As the brilliant Anna Whitehouse (AKA @Mother_Pukka on Instagram) says, ‘to carry on working 9-5 (often longer) in an office is like battery farming chickens – we know it’s not good, we know the results aren’t as good and we know the chickens aren’t happy. It’s time we started ‘free-range working’ – we can trust people to get the job done without being shackled to a desk and without treating them like naughty school children if they need to take an hour or two out to make an appointment. After all, if the job isn’t done, it will soon become apparent.
Some major companies are now starting to pick up on this realising that the future is flexible (free range) and if they don’t jump on board, the top talent will jump ship. It’s great to see this change happening, though more slowly than we’d like. Many people are still facing gruelling commutes, and parents dealing with the added stress of the nursery collection at the exact hour, or seeing their miniature person waiting sadly with their little back pack as you arrive late after a work meeting overran. Sure, these things happen every now and again, but living like this on a daily basis is not going to make happy families.
I work remotely for Skype doing flexible hours. Often quite random – a few hours in the morning, a long break, then a few in the afternoon, a couple more after my 2-year-old son goes to bed. It works quite well for me as I can spend time with my son on the days he isn’t in nursery, and with my parents who come to help and spend time with him. I can go to the gym off-peak, and when it’s nice weather, go and take advantage and sit in the park.
What is missing for me though is flexible, affordable childcare
The system in the UK is totally rigged to offer full days that you must commit to every week (or give a month’s notice to change… or go on a wait list). What is also shocking is that here in the UK, on average we spend a third of our household income on childcare compared to 13% in other major economies. It feels so hard as a young family to make it all work – to have a life, to work towards that ever-elusive ‘balance.’ My husband and I earn a good salary, and yet we find ourselves struggling to cover the costs. Or struggling to get work done with a destructive toddler around!
That’s part of the reason why I started my business, Free Range Work Co.
It’s a Co-Working Community Club for entrepreneurial mums with optional childcare. You can come along for Co-Working & Focus time – just pay for the session as needed without having to commit. (The other reason was feeling so lonely working from home alone!) The idea is to bring the social element of the office, combine with flexible childcare, and work from nice places with decent coffee. At £25 for 3 hours of childcare and Co-Working, or £6 without childcare, it’s a good deal, but I would still like to be able to make the crèche more affordable. Do you know any offices / companies that have an on-site nursery or crèche? Until that becomes the norm, I choose to work from the pub flexible hours with flexible childcare!