19 Mar A Word On Work / Life Balance
I’m currently reading and very much enjoying ‘A Good Time to be a Girl’ by Helena Morrissey. Her wise sentiment that we should not just ‘lean in’ but ‘change the system’ is something that I couldn’t agree more with. I would recommend this book to anyone juggling a family or interested in work-life balance in what hopefully is a changing workplace dynamic.
There is no-one I can think of that has done more for women than Helena Morrissey. Founder of the 30% Club and Women Ahead whose aim is ‘to create an inclusive society in which individuals and organisations can achieve their potential’. The premise was to work with boards of FTSE 100 companies to ensure 30% of the board was female. They have moved the dial from 12.5% in 2010 to 28.4% in 2017 and have over 1,500 mentors and mentees through the ‘Women Ahead’ initiative. She is hugely respected across industries and was responsible for bringing the women’s boat race to the Thames on the same day as the mens – so it now enjoys an audience on the banks of the Thames and in 2017 worldwide BBC coverage by 4.8m people through Newton Investment / BNY Mellon’s sponsorship of the race.
To me, gender balance means a balance for both sexes and a work life balance is surely what we are all ultimately striving for. Why should either parent miss bedtime, assembly, sports fixtures?
I’ve valued having my own business since my eldest son was born which has given me a degree of flexibility. This has meant being able to go to school events, hospital appointments and attend classes; making up for working hours in the evening or at the weekend. Like every working mum I know. But why should work demand 12 hour days? Overseas travel on a weekly basis? Surely there needs to be a balance?
JP Morgan ran a shockingly misplaced ad a few years ago in which a small child is depicted at bedtime and the caption reads ‘make sure your investment is worth the missed bedtimes’. What an awful sentiment – to suggest you should miss those precious few years when your child actually enjoys a bedtime story.
The hope for my own boys has to be that they will, like me, have the opportunity to explore more flexible working hours; spend valuable time with their own children and have a better work-life balance.
Being away from home whilst working long hours; going to meetings and travelling abroad for days on end surely impacts on important relationships with family, friends and children? A rewarding career should not mean such sacrifice?
I’ve been lucky to own my own business, but I’ve worked hard at it, which has provided fantastic opportunities to be flexible. But what’s important in today’s work-place is that this flexibility is available for people working at all levels as Helena Morrissey states, she has worked hard to accomplish her position and balance with family life.
Firms like Netflix, LinkedIn and Virgin have started implementing unlimited holiday schemes (albeit providing they get their job done), there is a shift that is slowly taking place. I read an article recently which talked about leaving the office ‘noisily’, an initiative for senior members of the office to be seen and heard leaving the office at 5 o’clock to pick their kids up, to make it acceptable. I think this is the first sign that management recognise change has to come from the top.
So what is the next shift? Scrapping 9-5 contracts? hot desking? flexible consultation businesses? The only way to continue to push these changes is to vocalise it. It’s going to take every person with the ability to make small changes to truly “change the system” for all, parents and non-parents alike.