Workplace Flexibility

Annabel Crabb’s article this morning in the Sun Herald was very amusing. As usual she is spot on. But I have a few other perspectives which I think need some consideration.

My view is that no one can “have it all” but we can have it nearly all and a great life if we trim our expectations just a little.

I have experienced many sides of this equation (see, my muddled work/family life history has already convinced me equations must be able to have more than two sides). I have worked full time pre children and worked full time with with four young children (all too big to fit in a brief case even singly). I have also worked part time in a job share situation and worked part time in two jobs simultaneously. Finally I worked full time for many years after my children were all grown up. Very early I had to let go my expectation of assistance in the parenting role from the other parent, except at family fun times, but, incidentally, I had had a father who could to turn his hand to child rearing tasks in my own long ago childhood.

I am delighted to say, through all this, my children have turned out to be lovely people. (OK, so I may possibly be biased.)

First I have to agree that as a part time worker one can accomplish a great deal. In my three year stint as a job sharer, my co- worker and I, who could both make arrangements to come in on other days when necessary, counted up our joint workload. Whilst the full time people were expected to work with forty families, we had sixty between us, and we did not feel overworked.

But having two part time jobs, both of them satisfying in their own right, is soul destroyingly hard work with little pleasure in accomplishment, just sheer relief. There is no room for flexibility towards family in this situation as any flexibility must be towards the other job.

In a job with a face to face client or customer base, it is difficult to provide flexible supervision or flexible opportunities without others having pick up the load. In my latter years with no children I saw many volunteering in emergencies, being aware of other’s needs and helping out. But it was annoying when this was regarded as a right, not as a voluntary shouldering of work responsibilities by others because of someone else’s status as a young parent. After all parenthood is usually a choice too. A common time for conflict, for example, is school holidays. Most people without young children will voluntarily avoid making holiday plans at this time. Sometimes this cannot be avoided so there goes the flexibility option for someone!

But most of all, if you have the option of flexibility to allow for the care of your children, do not be jealous if those who do not need it are preferred at times at work. After all they have the downside of not seeing those wonderful, delighted faces and hearing those excited tales of the day when they get home. They have to make do with a welcome from the dog or cat!


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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2 Responses to Workplace Flexibility

  1. It seems to me that it is possible now more than ever before to blur the lines between workplace and home, because so much that can be done at an office can be done sitting in a study at home or even at a laptop on the living-room lounge. The greatest danger here – and I think the danger is for women under present circumstances in particular – is that there are also big opportunities for employers to exploit women’s labour in this environment.

    It is also possible to keep women isolated from real power if they don’t have a physical presence in an office or refuse to accept workplace maxims which are all too often that job comes first.


  2. Anne Powles says:

    I agree with what you say. In addition, often what those at home with young children often need is some face to face time with adults!
    However certainly IT does allow much more flexibility in when and where one works.

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