Does Flexible Working Really Matter?
It’s Flexible Working Week here in the UK.
And my first thought was this:
Who keeps thinking up all of these official weeks of things?
My second thought, however, was a bit more serious.
I started to think about my own journey as one of the five million people who work from home in the UK.
I started to think about the companies I’ve worked for (and applied to), and how they’ve supported my flexible working patterns.
But mostly, I started to think about Workplace by Facebook – and how it’s been instrumental in recreating the office experience that so many flexible workers often miss out on.
I was first introduced to Workplace three years ago
I’d been working as a freelance Microsoft consultant for the last eight years, and I’d decided it was time to take the next step in my career.
I was instantly hooked.
I knew it was a product I wanted to work with, and I quickly became a full-on Workplace evangelist.
A couple of my friends at Facebook suggested that I join their Solutions Architecture team down in London. But with my family, my friends, and my house in Leeds, I wasn’t able to just pack up and move across the country.
So I had to say no. But despite this, the people at Facebook were amazing to me.
They introduced me to some of their partners – and I spent the next few weeks talking to agencies in Brisbane, Oslo, and here in the UK.
I’m happy to report that every single one of them was open to the flexible working patterns that I would need as a parent.
I got on well with every person I spoke to, and I wish them all well with their businesses (unless we’re ever in direct competition, of course 😂).
In the end, I decided that Coolr was the right fit for me (despite the fact that they’re also based in London).
They were Facebook’s first partner in the EMEA, and they’d grown through their strength and experience in the social and executive engagement space.
They needed to further flesh out their technical offering – and I was right person to lead that division.
So where am I now?
I’m six months into the role. And it’s been a lot of fun.
But I’ve also been extremely lucky:
In 2018, I became a dad to my newborn son, Tom.
Through my new position at Coolr, I’ve been able to work from home and see him growing.
I was there when he took his first steps, and I was there when he learned to feed himself his own breakfast.
Yes, I’ve had the occasional embarrassing BBC News moment (where my kids toddle in during an important video chat).
But so far, my clients and colleagues have found it funny. And it’s even helped to lighten the tone and build rapport (so thanks for that, Tom!).
And that brings me nicely to my next point:
I’m closer to my colleagues than I ever was without Workplace
I’m hopping in and out of private chats, connecting with people personally in a way that just feels too formal with email.
I’m jumping onto video calls with a couple of quick clicks – and the transition from text to video simply feels more natural than it did in my Microsoft days.
I see my colleagues talking in open groups, and I get a feel for things that are happening around the business.
And I’ve learned more about sales and marketing in the last six months than I did in the last 15 years working with people through traditional tools.
It doesn’t matter that I’m 200 miles away from my team. Workplace helps to keep me feeling close and involved in every conversation.
By pulling together all of the functionality we need under one umbrella – and by breaking down internal siloes through groups and chat – Workplace makes it impossible to feel separated by the distance between us.
And when I need to be extra flexible?
I can just hop on the mobile app for a seamless continuation.
As well as being a dad to Tom, I’m also a step-dad to two more children (George and Katie) – and so my day rarely fits perfectly into the typical 9 to 5.
Through Workplace (and the culture at Coolr) I don’t need to be tied to my home office.
If I need to grab a sick child from school and make up the time elsewhere, I can.
It’s not just easy – it feels completely natural.
It doesn’t matter if I’m at a client’s office or standing on the playground. If I’m not at my desk, I’m still connected – I can still reply, and I can still help.
And then there are the ‘lightbulb’ moments:
Do you ever spend hours working on a problem, only for the answer to hit you as soon as you switch off?
Do you ever have a revelation in the bathroom, on the sofa, or halfway through your dinner?
As a leadership team, it’s not unusual for us to be bouncing ideas off one another in group chats at 9pm because someone had a brain wave while watching TV.
It doesn’t mean we go back to work. But it plants the seed of the idea in our heads – so we’re ready to discuss it in detail in the morning.
I work more hours than I normally would
But it’s not because I have to. It’s because it doesn’t feel like work.
I can ping off a question and get a reply in my down time. I can deal with someone’s message later, because I know they won’t mind a reply at 6pm.
Of course, there’s a lot of talk about Digital Wellbeing.
It’s important to be able to disconnect from the grid. And it’s important to make sure you’re not spending all of your time working online.
But Workplace doesn’t feel like work. It makes me happy to give more.
Flexible working – and the seamless way that Workplace enables it – has made me happier as a person and an employee.
And I’m more productive as a result
It’s allowed me to progress, and it’s given me more affinity to my organisation. I get to see my family more, and I’ve made more friends at work.
Now, I don’t want this to turn into a sales pitch.
But if you’re responsible for people, then you should look at Workplace for your organisation.
I genuinely believe in the power of this tool to improve the work-life balance of people everywhere – and I truly believe that it can make work more fun.
So if you’re interested, I’d be more than happy to give anyone a free, no-obligation demo of what Workplace can do and how it can help.
Because whoever you are, nothing can cure a difficult day faster than a five-minute rest with your family.
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com.