Flexible working is a hot topic at the moment. Last week, social enterprise, Digital Mum's released a body of research into the subject (top line: we waste 66 million hours per week in wasted Mum talent because flex working is still unavailable to so many) and on Saturday Step Up sat on a glittering panel at the Second Home X Motherland event in London Fields - a celebration of all things flexible.
The event, held inside an inflatable bubble (what's not to love already?!), was to mark the impending arrival of Second Home's latest endeavour: a gigantic shared work space with onsite, bilingual nursery and creche. Founder, Rohan Silver, has said this on the subject:
'I often wonder how on earth I’d combine being an entrepreneur with parenting duties. To be honest, I’ve no idea — like most small- business owners I work around the clock, and it would be heart-breaking to be away from my kids for too long.
Obviously I’m not alone in this predicament. Parents have been grappling with similar issues for years, but as London entrepreneurs such as Charlotte Philby and Anna Whitehouse point out, much more needs to be done to help, especially for women.'
Actually, what we believe passionately, and what came to the fore during the panel discussion - sitting alongside us was the formidable and hilarious Mother Pukka, and Mariam Mola, founder of the outstanding Mentor MatcHer initiative - is that really, flexible working isn't just a topic for women. If we're to reach a new Flex dawn, a place where everyone has unstigmatised access to flexible working structures, then men need to, er man up, and start pushing from their side too.
Here's a round up of what else was said:
Mother Pukka aka Anna Whitehouse: The self-confessed, Flex Work Foghorn, Anna lived in Holland when her daughter was born and when she tried to go back to work full time, her employers balked. Apparently, there, where equality runs deep, childcare is a family responsibility - and employers encourage mothers and fathers equally to make work fit around their offspring.
Mentor MatcHer: For Mariam, flexible working cannot happen without support. While she builds her business, a village is literally raising her child. With this kind of support at home, she is able to forge ahead at work, and to make many of the flexible work options out there work, you need support from other people. Build your network, whether that's family, friends or locals, is vital to manage your flexible working life.
Step Up: You know us, the world's biggest supporters (and hopefully, with the book, boosters) of Confidence. It's at the root of career fulfilment and success and it is also a cornerstone of flexible working. It isn't easy asking to work flexibly, or actually working flexibly, if you're the only one in the office clocking off at 5pm on the dot. But without the confidence to commit to a new regime that means you can also be there for suppertime or do the school run, then you need to draw on that power that we all hold within ourselves - and pull your shoulders back and work to your own agenda.
As well as that, we are big believers in knowing yourself. Along with our unique personalities come different ways of working and what that means is that we each have a flex style that will suit us best. Siloed work and non-work days or everything goes all at the same time - as we've said before each of these is equally valid, but it's only when we find the approach that suits us that we can find the right balance.