Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Working flexibly is how many parents choose to juggle children and careers. There are a variety of flexible options and if you're looking for a role that offers flexible working, you’ll want to understand what they are
Written by Dr Emma Waltham | Maternity Returners Expert
When it comes to blending parenthood with a career, many find a flexible-working pattern is the only way they can fit work in around the kids, without becoming stressed or feeling like there's no work-life balance. In fact surveys repeatedly show it's the benefit that's most valued by employees.
"While not all jobs can be done flexibly, many can, and the introduction of new technologies means that it is becoming increasingly feasible"
While not all jobs can be done flexibly, many can, and the introduction of new technologies means it's becoming increasingly feasible. Whether it’s moving away from 9-5 or working remotely, the workplace is changing. There are many different strategies for bringing flexibility into the workplace. Here are the most common.
Part-time working means reducing the number of days worked, or the number of hours worked in the day. Or, sometimes it can be a combination of both. So, instead of working 40 hours over a five-day week, you could do three full days a week, or 30 hours over five days, say. You could also work different hours over different days. This might work if you are splitting childcare responsibilities with a partner, so that one can do the school drop off on one day and the other on another day.
Flexi-time is when the times of working are not fixed, though the total number of hours you’ll be working per week usually is. Often there will be core hours that you work around, say 10-4.
A popular option for flexible working is to work longer days so that, for instance, you work 40 hours over four days. While this means you work long hours for four days, it reduces commuting time and means you have a day off in the week.
In some roles it’s possible to work just during term time, though the employers that can accommodate this are fairly limited in practice. These roles are not so common and usually come up in the education sector, for example administrative roles in schools.
Only a small minority of roles are advertised as part time or flexible. While you may be able to negotiate flexible working, another way of approaching widening the roles you can potentially apply for is to find a job-share partner and apply for full-time roles together. There are platforms available that help you find a job-share partner and help you promote this set up to employers, such as Ginibee and Duome.
Employers are becoming increasingly open to employees working from home, or in another remote location. This could be for part of the time or in some cases, full time. This can help by enabling you to pick up older children from school, for example, who can then amuse themselves for an hour or two at home, while you finish off your work.
Staggered hours are a more established option in industries like retail, where there must be someone available at all times to provide face-to-face customer service. Rather than all employees being present at the same time, however, the hours of work are staggered to cover the customer-facing work, meaning some employees start/finish earlier than others.
9 Days / 2 Weeks
This is a form of part-time work where nine full days are worked over a fortnight, so that you get an extra day off every two weeks.
Some roles are offered on a contract basis, meaning they are usually advertised as full time over a fixed number of months. So if you work in this way, you would complete a contract and then take a break before the next one begins.
While this means you have time off in between assignments, it can make childcare difficult as you either have to keep the childcare in place in between contracts, so you don’t lose it, or find a flexible provider who is willing to have times when they are not looking after your children, without being paid.
Freelance work is usually offered as a project or on an hourly rate. It is often done remotely though it can be an in-house project. This can give you a great deal of flexibility as you have more autonomy to fit work in around family commitments. The downside is that unless you can find a number of regular clients that give you enough work, you will need to be continually building a pipeline of projects in order to sustain your income levels.
These are the common ways that people work flexibly. They all have their pros and cons and which would work best for you will depend on your family set up and your commitments. Now you know the options available, if you'd like tips on how to get a well-paid flexible job, check out my other post on finding a flexible job. I've also put together a free directory of flexible working agencies, job boards and other resources to help you find a role, which you can download.