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September 14, 2018

Flexible Working

Anna Ludeman, one of our most experienced consultants, shares her experience of flexible working and calls upon the sector to be more open-minded.

Flexible working is something I feel really passionate about and so, it seems do you.

As a recruiter within the charity sector and a new Mum, I champion flexibility for all and have experienced first-hand what a positive impact this can have on one's mental and physical well-being. I always believed that the charity sector led the way when it came to employee rights, diversity, inclusivity and women's empowerment. So I am surprised that I still find myself battling with clients who won't consider flexible options when recruiting.

After eight years in the sector, I have seen a huge shift in the way that we all work, moving away from a desk-bound environment to one where answering emails mid-commute and Skyping into meetings has become the norm.

Here are some of the most common worries that I hear:

  • How will I know if that person is actually working and not binge-watching Netflix?
  • Offering one person flexibility will open the floodgates for all
  • We need someone 'present' in the office
  • We do not have the capacity to support home working.

I work from home twice a week. I log onto the server remotely using my laptop and am at work. This does not cost my employer lots of money and a huge headache. In fact, it saves them rent. We all benefit from a hot-desking culture where we are trusted to do our jobs and be self-motivated to do a good job, whether that be from home, on a delayed South Western train or from the local Pret.

I also work part-time. Yes, you read that right - a recruiter who works part time! I spend two-thirds of the week recruiting fundraisers and one third watching 'Hey Duggee'. I absolutely love my work/life balance and enjoy watching my daughter grow whilst developing my own career. I acknowledge that this has only been possible because I have an understanding employer, one who champions women, parents and flexible working and leaves me to do what I do best. Without any pressure, clock watching or judgement.

I have heard some exceptional stories from talented Fundraisers in the sector who have worked for organisations who are just as supportive. I have heard from Dads who have been offered Senior Level roles in large charities on a part-time basis as they share parental responsibility looking after their little ones. A leading homeless charity offers flexibility to all, allowing one Trust Fundraiser to work from home whenever she needs the peace and quiet and which has led to the charity's largest ever donation. I have also spoken to a Mum who has enjoyed the whole summer off with her daughter, taken as extended unpaid leave after 10 years of service. She is thrilled that they have been so supportive of her request.

Unfortunately, I have also heard from fundraisers who have had negative experiences. One Fundraiser was denied temporary remote working to look after her terminally-ill mother without any explanation as to why. Another who was denied flexible-working, but was expected to do out-of-hours meetings, late night events and regional travel without any overtime being taken into consideration. I have also heard from someone who had to take their employer to a tribunal over their incredibly restrictive maternity policy.

Can you envisage how many talented individuals the sector is missing out on? Individuals with a disability, parents, carers, regionally-based fundraisers - talent is hard to come by.

I feel embarrassed to admit, but when I was a junior recruiter, my heart would sink if I received a CV from a part-time candidate. Their CV could be impressive, their experience exceptional, but I knew none of my clients would consider them. Thankfully, now that I'm older and wiser and a fiery, new Mum, I always encourage part-time candidates to apply regardless of the initial brief. More often than not, they are offered an interview as the client, when faced with a fantastic CV, sees the benefit of having that person on board, even if it's not full-time.

Since I have come back from maternity leave, I have placed more part-time candidates into roles than I have done in seven years prior to this. I feel passionate about representing these wonderful individuals and feel tired of the attitudes that still exist in our largely wonderful, inclusive and diverse sector.

So, what is the answer? I have had so many insightful messages from fundraisers who have invaluable experiences to share and collectively all agree on the same basic principles:

  • Trust. If you don't trust your workforce to work remotely, then you've hired the wrong people.
  • Training. Senior leaders should be coached on flexible working so that they can lead their teams more effectively.
  • Retention of staff. It costs thousands of pounds to recruit and train new staff members. Why not offer flexibility and listen to your staff's needs rather than pushing them to look for a more suitable job elsewhere?
  • Benefits. When we look at company benefits we usually hear about annual leave allowance, discounted gym membership or free tea and coffee! How about fantastic parental or maternity leave policies or flexible working initiatives? These are the benefits that will really appeal to potential candidates.
  • Productivity. Don't be scared. Statistics show that given the freedom to work in a way which suits you, increases a person's productivity in abundance.
  • Health. Flexible working is wonderful for a person's mental and physical wellbeing and will lead to a happier, healthier team.
  • Technology. We aren't in the stone ages. We have wondrous resources such as Skype, E-Mail and even the telephone. Staff working from home shouldn't mean a quiet or isolated way of working. Pick up the phone, have a coffee date over skype and catch up. We chat every Tuesday with our regional team over skype and a latte and we all have a huge smile on our faces for the rest of the day.

There are many wonderful people out there who are fighting the fight including the incredible www.motherpukka.co.uk who has instigated #flexappeal, a revolutionary campaign fighting for flexible rights for all. Another, pregnantthenscrewed.com, is an incredible campaigner, providing practical help to all those mothers facing discrimination. Follow these guys on Instagram or Twitter and watch whilst they change the world.

I'd love the charity sector to be a leader in championing flexibility, inclusivity and diversity. Some organisations are working incredibly hard to make this happen. Offering flexibility will not lead to the sky caving in and could breathe new life into the office, create more happiness and increase productivity. The charity sector is a melting pot of unique individuals, all of whom will have their own way of working. They just need to be given the freedom to do it.

Champion them, don't lose them.

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