The way we work – companies no longer flexible enough

Posted on January 23, 2013


I often find myself working six days per week. Some of you will relate to that. Others will find it depressing. (If you know me, you’ll know it’s certainly not a boast!)

More than when I was at big companies, the last 15 months have seen me able to pick and choose how I spend my time.

I'm not Ollie (even if I look like him) but I still like to WFH.

I’m not Ollie (even if I look like him) but I still like to WFH.

I do four or five school runs a week where previously I was lucky to do one. I get to visit my dad five times per week. No amount of compassionate leave would have allowed that, at least not for a period of six months and counting.

And while I might put in a few hours on a Saturday, I have a rule that I don’t dump work on other people then or respond to non-urgent messages. It just feels right.

There have been plenty of days when my me-time can mean a long run or trip to the gym at 11AM. That couldn’t happen in plenty of other – more rigid – environments.

Whenever I’m off doing those things I remind myself I still put in the hours. Not to feel guilty.

But I’ve learnt that I love my unique rhythm. I like days spent with clients. I like driving or cycling to one of those client sites sometimes. I like those days that see early mornings and late nights head down in the home office – while I now get to see plenty of winter daylight in the middle of those days.

As mentioned, part of this is to do with doing your own thing, being self-employed. That’s not for everyone, though the number of people working this way is on the rise.

It’s also related to technology. More and more people can work flexibly. That doesn’t just mean from home. (Working from home = WFH.) It can mean stopping and taking that important call on your headphones during that mid-morning run (I’ve learnt).

During the recent disruption caused by a bit of snow in the UK it was interesting to hear news channels still talk about people “making it to work”. They (who?) estimated a third of the working population wasn’t “at work”.

Don’t they know the already-clichéd line? “Work isn’t a place you go, it’s a thing you do.”

I bet a lot of that third were at least as productive as they would be after a commute, with all the time, energy and money that wastes.

The overriding reason I haven’t jumped back into a staff position somewhere isn’t that I’m building my own thing, as interesting that is. I just can’t imagine jobs with the same flexibility.

They can exist – I might be proved wrong someday – but the world is changing. And it’s being led by individuals, not by companies.

* photo credit: marc0047 via photopin cc

Follow Tony on Twitter – @tphallett

Posted in: Family, Work