Flexible working can be vital as a working parent as it helps to make life more possible and sustainable.  If you work for an organisation that enables you to have a flexible working pattern – this means you can fulfil your career aspirations alongside being the parent that you want to be. 

To make flexible working “work for you” as a parent – these 5 tips may help: 

  1. Make sure that you actually work the flexible hours that you that agreed. So many parents take the time to negotiate a great flexible working pattern that works for them but end up working old patterns or much longer hours as they feel they “should” and that they are “inconveniencing” people by not being “always available”.  Remember your pay and benefits are in line with your agreed working hours – so try to work accordingly. If you find that your role is not “possible” to deliver within the agreed working pattern, you will need to reset expectations with your manager and look to amend the role/or the working hours. 
  2. If you are working to a different pattern, you may need to establish your “working day” – identifying when you start and finish and clearly communicate this with team members and clients. To help switch you into or out of work mode, create a morning ritual or routine that helps your brain to transition more easily from parent to work and back again. Many of us didn’t relish the daily commute, but it did help with creating lines around your working day. If you are working remotely, build in time for a quick walk/stretch/making a nice coffee …something that signals to you that work is starting or finishing.  Once you have defined your working day, you can then prioritise what needs to be delivered in the time you have available.
  3. All about the boundaries. Working flexibly often allows you to more effectively combine time at home or at work – but without establishing clear and meaningful boundaries the lines become even more blurred, leaving you struggling to be present either when you are with the kids or when you are working…feeding the baby whilst on a conference call, or a training session whilst bathing the kids??  Spend time thinking about what YOUR boundaries are and the impact on you and others if you don’t meet them, then share with your partner/manager so they can be aware and support you. For example, I will do bath time 4 nights a week, and will only do evening calls after 7.30.  Set them, share them and stick to them.
  4. Prioritise your network and have a great sponsor! Working flexibly or on a different working pattern to your colleagues may mean that you are less visible to line managers or leadership teams. So, to keep your career on track, have a network of advocates who will support you/speak up for you even when you are not in the room. To make this relationship effective, keep them regularly updated on all of your great work, client wins and career goals.
  5. Remember that working flexibly does not mean you are working any less hard, driving less impact, are less focused or less ambitious – and don’t apologise for working flexible hours.  Still take your leave to which you are entitled, make time to attend relevant training courses, or go to that team lunch and schedule time for your personal development.