Let’s talk about flex
Launched in the UK last year, the #flex campaign aims to encourage employers to offer a more flexible working environment.
The founder of this movement is journalist Anna Whitehouse, aka Mother Pukka, who took the world of blogging and social media by storm. As she explained, the whole drive behind her campaign is based on this one stat: “86% of companies believe they offer flexible working, while 77% of women in the workforce have faced discrimination or lost their job while on maternity leave”.
We’ve recently published the results of our month-long online survey on work-life balance among designers and architects, but we also looked at whether the industry is providing flexibility to employees with kids.
When looking at the results for flexible working hours, 39% of respondents stated that they are free to work from home, with averages rising for parents with pre-and-school-age children, 55% of whom have the flexibility to work from home occasionally. Some 57% of parents also said their companies allow them flexible working hours in comparison to the average of 43%.
As I’m writing this comment, I’ve just finished interviewing Helen El Mettouri, regional director at Keane for our August issue. After a long conversation about the design industry and its challenges, her role in managing clients and her team, we touched upon motherhood. Rejecting the “mummy guilt”, she said she has also ditched the notion of finding the optimal work-life balance.
“I get the job done and think motherhood has made me more focussed than ever. I love what I do – being in the studio with the team, being out in the field with clients and I love being a mother,” she told me, and then rushed through the door to pick up her three-year old son from his nursery.
I had a similar conversation with Gensler’s lead designer Sejal Patel, who managed to climb the ladder from junior to senior designer while working flexible working hours and raising her son.
Being a proud mom of three teenagers didn’t stop Isabel Pintado, managing director at Wilson Associates, from having a successful career as a designer and accepting more responsible management roles.
“I say to my kids that I am a full-time employee over the week and I am a full-time mother on the weekends. And that’s the reality of it. You just have to come to terms with your choices and guilt is the biggest waste of time. I think women are useless with guilt in general,” Pintado told me last year.
I find it challenging to write about work-life balance without repeating what’s already been said or falling into that woman can’t or can “do it all” trap.
It’s all about keeping the conversation going or, as Whitehouse simply puts it – let’s talk about flex, baby.