Women in Financial Services Blog

More employees are requesting flexible working hours.

More employees are requesting flexible working hours.

Tina.Freed / 15 Sep 2015

More employees are requesting flexible working hours. However, which organisations have the right strategies and processes in place to actually be flexible?

Flexible working legislation celebrated its first birthday on the 30th June. However, when it comes to real cultural change around flexibility and work/life balance, how far do businesses still have to go?

In the last few months we’ve learned that a US private equity firm has announced a new policy that it will pay for parents to bring their children and nannies on work trips up until the child turns one and IBM wants to start shipping their employee’s breast milk. At the same time women with babies are being forced out of the workplace as a new survey from the Back2Businessship initiative, shows that over a quarter of women suffer from “baby shame”. As the majority are afraid to admit at work that their child exists for fear of being judged.

You can understand why, when the old traditional ways of the city means anyone arriving in the office after 8am is considered a slacker, and if you leave on time to make it home for dinner it is accepted that you are going for job interviews. Once the rumours spread, you are a goner.
Flying nannies and children around the world after the parents is the private equity firm’s short term solution to a bigger problem – it’s a lack of diversity. Similar to blocking your ears when you’re a child not wanting to listen.
By telling their employees they don’t have to worry about leaving their baby behind on a work trip because the child can come with them, what they are really implying? If you want to work for us you will get yourself on that plane as there is no alternative to the trip. To do otherwise would be to show yourself as one of those uncommitted new parents.
IBM’s offering to ship new mothers’ breast milk home to their children when they’re travelling, or Facebook and Apple offering to freeze their employees’ eggs, are short sighted solutions. As they haven’t addressed the deeper cause of employee dissatisfaction – they want a life outside of work.

A plethora of case studies and research have shown how working excessive hours actually decreases effectiveness. All that extra time in the office doing the things that absolutely cannot wait until tomorrow, just means that when tomorrow comes, you’re less capable of doing the things that need to happen today. Long intense working hours result in long-term degradations in work quality over time. Our bodies and minds need rest, we’re not designed to work 24/7. Who can claim to be a better leader and a more focussed employee without sleep or downtime?
Human beings, need outside experiences to motivate and enhance their working lives. Think of the great contact you made because you joined a running club or the negotiation insight you gained when trying to get your toddler around the supermarket without wanting to buy everything in sight and ending up in a tantrum. For optimum output, we “Beings” require living intermingled lives which requires experiences outside the office environment because it can improve, and often enhances, our work performance.

The 26% of women in the Back2Businesship survey who are scared to mention their child/children in the office cannot be performing at their best. The emotional drain of time spent day in day out, worrying about what their colleagues might think of them.
Back in 2010 during the volcanic ash cloud crisis which caused millions of passengers to be stranded due to large parts of European airspace closed to air traffic, a women found herself stranded on the other side of the world while attending a business meeting. She was stuck with a young child at home, however, there was nothing she could do until the air routes were reopened.

If the situation had been reversed and she’d been stuck in the UK rather than being able to attend her meeting, we would all have accepted it as just one of those things. The meeting would have been moved or a conference call suggested; after all if you can’t fly, you can’t fly. An ash cloud is an acceptable reason to miss a meeting, but in our current working culture a baby isn’t.
If the US private equity firm wanted to be really radical it would have looked at how its employees divided their time and then shifted its working culture appropriately. Temporarily flying “Mary Poppins” around the globe after businesses appointments isn’t about diversity.
It’s about winning the war on talent, smart finance companies know that if they want the talented, experience female employees, it’s a two way conversation.

Are you a professional who has previously had a career within a leading investment bank or currently having a career break from the financial markets?
Do you have different motivations and want to manage your own career and feel that a work-life balance is also a priority?

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