Flexible working requests: A manager’s perspective

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Gemma JohnsonAfter my first child was born, I managed to negotiate going back to work part-time, so I started with two days per week, building up to three days, then four days and then back to a full working week.

My son was 12 months old at the time and as I was commuting from Buckinghamshire to the West End of London. Although I had been at home (albeit starting a business) I knew emotionally and physically I needed to ease myself back in to the working/office environment.

I have to say, it wasn’t easy. I did feel accepted back into the fold by my peers and the CEO, but it was pretty clear that my line manager had other ideas when giving me the donkey work to do. I was passed over for travel opportunities that other members in my team got to go on, and I was given work projects and clients that had about as much chance of success as I had at passing up the offer of a chocolate bar at a 4pm sugar slump!

I was left feeling underappreciated and also confused about my own value.

It can be hard for some people without children to understand how easy it is to lose your self esteem during the process of pregnancy and the ‘upside down’ feeling that comes with having a baby. Or the pressure that working a full week has on a parent, combined with the full-time role of bringing up a family.

Looking back, I should have taken some much-needed time to list out my skills, identify courses that I would like to go on (or pay for and put myself on) and also set a work goal for myself.

It was a tricky situation, as I also had my own business that I started while on maternity leave. I felt a real sense of loyalty to my employee, but I needed to work out if it was going to be manageable to juggle both jobs, the commute and a new family. My situation was slightly different as I had approval for flexible working, but I what I lacked was any clear plan on what I wanted to achieve and how I wanted to manage the situation.

Now that I run MyFamilyClub and have a rapidly expanding team, I am in the position my CEO was in back then, trying to balance the needs of the business against the emotional and practical needs of my team members.

As a mum of two myself, I have the benefit of living through the working week which sometimes requires flexible hours, responding to last minute situations such as the lost school shoe that makes you miss your train, or the sick child who has to be kept of school for 48 hours…

It can be one big juggle! And that’s not even taking in to consideration your needs as an individual and a parent to have a sense of balance around time with your family and time developing yourself or your career – or working somewhere you don’t like simply to bring home the bacon.

Having been on both ends of the stick, I can definitely understand the practical needs of both businesses and working parents… And there’s no reason why they can’t both be met – you just need to approach it in the right way. Take a look my three golden rules on how to build your case for a flexible working request.