Alex is the European Programmes Director, responsible for matching European and domestic funds to create employment, skills, business support and low carbon programmes for London.
Flexible working in the European Programmes Management Unit
Why I work flexibly
My daughters were both at nursery; and my wife and I were considering ways of sharing childcare and reducing its cost. I started working ‘compressed hours’ - four 10-hour days - which allowed me to spend the fifth day looking after the kids.
Although I started working flexibly primarily for childcare reasons, other advantages have since become apparent. Working fewer longer days may not be for everyone, but I am an early starter. I get to the office for 7am - missing the morning rush. The first two quiet hours before most other colleagues arrive may be my most productive. My job entails a fair amount of travel in the UK and Europe; which is more manageable in the window of a longer working day; and I can always change my non-working day if need be.
Once my daughters started school, compressed hours continued to be a useful way of managing school holidays, doctors’ appointments, inset days without cutting into leave or working hours. Now they are (nearly) old enough to look after themselves.
But the flexible working is still valuable to me, as I have recently been appointed as a London magistrate. It would have been difficult to consider this without compressed hours, because I am expected to serve at least one day a month. Now I can use my fifth day to sit on the magistrate’s bench as required without adversely affecting my job.
Although I should add that CIty Hall also allows three days a year volunteering time for all employees, which allows me to attend mandatory training for the judiciary on fixed days, among other things.
Why flexible working works
Other members of the team also work flexibly - part time, compressed hours, or a day a week from home. A father has recently taken advantage of new shared parental leave arrangements. Flexible working requests don’t need to be motivated by childcare; and colleagues in my team have different reasons.
In a team of more than 20 people, there are always ways of managing workloads when people decide they would like to do more or less, or work differently. It’s about getting the job done, not where or when you do it. I’ve never turned down a request.
I have remote access from home and/or the ability to access to work e-mails and files on our personal smartphones or tablets, thanks to some nifty apps. As our work often takes us outside City Hall, meeting stakeholders and those benefitting from the funding we manage, that’s a useful way of maximising our efficiency without being deskbound.
Flexible working is a win-win option in terms of personal choice and organisational effectiveness. It’s good to work for an employer where such flexibility is actively encouraged.