A great Huffington Post blog I read recently said that all parents need to build a “village” – literally to be surrounded by people, grandparents, aunties, uncles, neighbours, friends, all who can provide much needed help when you need them to.
Not long ago, my “village” went on a vacation and to top it off, my husband was going on multiple business trips in the same month. Alarm bells rang! Whilst Polycom does provide the ability for employees to flexi-work, I decided I needed to take personal time off. Yes, I took two weeks of personal time off to devote full time care to my 20 month old toddler.
The point to this story is that flexi-work is NOT about shortened hours or time-off. It is not an arrangement that should be abused! It essentially means providing flexibility to an employee so they can handle their time in the way that is best for themselves and their company, and still remain as productive or become even more productive. As flexi-workers we need to maintain accountability to our company, our customers, partners and ourselves. In my recent situation, I took time off work, because I knew I would not be able to maintain the necessary focus on my work.
Most employers know that being focused plays a huge part in an employee being engaged and productive. From the employer’s perspective, confidence in a flexible work arrangement grows and a culture of trust forms over time, as they reap the benefits of a more productive workforce. In fact, many companies around the world see tremendous, measurable benefits from flexi-work programmes. In Fortune magazine's recent "100 Best Companies to Work For 2013" list, 84 of the 100 companies listed offer telecommuting benefits for employees.
As an employee, and as head of a team who are also enabled to flexi-work, here are my top three tips for flexi-working employees, especially parents:
1. Keep a well-documented schedule.
It may seem odd to have a children’s party, an elderly relative’s health checks and baby vaccinations all integrated within an Outlook work calendar, but it helps you to plan around those schedules and avoid conflicts. That way, you can also make alternative arrangements should there be a potential conflict, like getting additional help from neighbours, parents, colleagues and friends. This relieves all the stress of committing too many things to memory
2. Agree on a modus operandi with your support network.
There should be a basic routine as a basis of work for every employee and that also extends to organising a structure outside of work (particularly for parents). For example, establishing which days and times you have support for childcare. Anything out of the ordinary can then be negotiated and that’s where “flexi” comes in, as we can coordinate changes much faster without having to fill out 10 pages of justification forms from HR.
3. Ensure you have a space conducive to work at home or wherever you plan to work.
We all have different work styles and ideas of a perfect workspace, but I like to have a decent space for my laptop, access to power, a good wifi connection, space to place some materials and a cup of coffee! With any video conferences I have, I also ensure that my surrounding is relatively quiet, with as few distractions in the background as possible, as well as in a well-lit area (so I look good on video!) This sets me up for a good productive work day.