Career progression and flexible working
There’s a perception that the flexible working model can impede career progression. This, coupled with the announcement by Nick Clegg that all employees will have the right to flexible working, has made it even more important for professionals to not only know their rights, but to ensure it doesn’t have negative connotations on their career.
Know your rights and what you want
If you’re thinking of asking for a flexible working option, know your rights legally, but take the time to review your company’s policies so you know where you stand before broaching the subject. Flexible working can include flexitime, which means you'll be required to work a set amount of hours; as long as these are completed, you can arrange your role around this and other commitments. Part-time work, job shares, staggered hours and remote working also come under the flexible working umbrella, so ensure you establish what you think would be best for you and the organisation. Most importantly, ensure you’re prepared to illustrate the business case for your desired working pattern.
How can you ensure your career flourishes?
If your employer is happy to introduce flexible working options, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to be aware of what you’re doing. If you’re not in the office full time or at all, it’s imperative that you’re visible and communicate regularly. This is perhaps even more important to quell the incorrect assumption that those who work remotely do less work or don’t put enough effort in as those who are. A recent article by MIT Sloan Management Review found that “just being seen at work, without any information about what you’re actually doing, leads people to think more highly of you.”
It’s important that you have regular contact with your colleagues, the management team and your clients (if applicable) to ensure you don’t get associated with this viewpoint and your career progression stakes are impeded.
Know when to switch off
The work-life balance trend has become increasingly prominent with the introduction of new technology allowing us to work anywhere and at any time. While many feel it’s great to have the option of working remotely from the office, this raises the problem of when work finishes and personal life begins.
If you’re going down the flexible working route, make sure you’re clear when your working hours are and stick to them. Being on call 24/7 is not only counter-productive and completely at odds with flexible working models, but it can also risk your health and therefore your career hopes. In today’s economic environment where we're all trying to retain our jobs and show the boss we will go above what’s required of us, it’s even more of an issue.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that those who can’t ‘switch off’ and have work in the back of their minds at all times not only risk increased stress levels, but also find it harder to concentrate and are perhaps not as focussed as they should be. If you work from home, ensure you spend time away from your computer, Blackberry, or anything associated with work.
Highlight your new skills
One interesting benefit of flexible working which is often forgotten is the possibility to gain new skills. The transition from the 9-to-5 job is not simply cutting down hours or changing the times you are working. In fact, you will need to be highly organised to manage your workload and ensure you are not committing to deliver more than is feasible.
Focus is another skill which many flexible workers develop. When working away from the office it can be easy to get side-tracked, but if you’re consistently delivering on your targets as an employee it’s safe to say that you’re a focused individual who’s able to multi-task and project manage.
Ensure that all your new skills derived from flexible working are added to your CV and LinkedIn profile as a matter of course. It’s easy to forget these and focus on adding achievements and other accomplishments, but when it comes to a new job you need to ensure everything that highlights you as a great candidate can be viewed by a hiring manager.
Dont be afraid to move on
Despite competition for jobs being rife in the current climate, if flexible working isn’t working for you and your company don’t be afraid to look for your next career move. If you think your desire or need to work in this way is impacting your career prospects, assess your next move before it’s too late. There are plenty of companies who are not only leading the way in flexible working, but also crying out for talent.
It’s important to note that while historically women have fared badly when it comes to flexible working, it’s by no means an issue for females alone. With plans by the Government to roll out shared parenting leave in 2014, it will begin to impact men as more view shared parenting as a viable option. If you’re considering a flexible working model, ensure you know where you stand from a legal point of view, but that you know how to keep your career on track. Good luck.