I have been sitting on a secret for weeks. Today marks both a professional and personal milestone. I can reveal I have partnered with LinkedIn to work as a Changemaker and do my bit to promote flexible working and ensure anyone with caring responsibilities, mums, dads or others, will be able to work this way wherever it is viable.
I feel the timing for this is superb as the COVID-19 crisis has proven the overwhelming majority of jobs can be carried out on a flexible basis as many parents have been forced to work from home while also homeschooling their children.
What is a LinkedIn Changemaker?
We are a diverse group of seven people who are seeking to modernise the way everyone works. Among the Changemakers is Ben West, a mental health campaigner seeking to improve mental health training and awareness in the workplace and disability specialist and campaigner Shani Dhanda. As I said at the start, I want to see flexible working become standard practice across all employers for all roles where it is viable, especially for those with caring responsibilities.
Carers have a huge amount to offer employers in terms of life experience, soft skills and enthusiasm. All too often, however, they are forced to choose between working rigid, old fashioned 9-5 office hours and their caring responsibilities.
Carers can be a diverse bunch. We often think of mums and dads trying to balance work and family life. In reality, grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents, spouses and partners can find themselves caring for ill relatives, relatives with special needs, grandchildren and so on. Employers need to recognise just how diverse this under-appreciated group of individuals is and harness the skills and talents they have to offer.
The impact of Coronavirus
As I said at the start, there is no better time to campaign for this change. With the social distancing guidelines that have been put in place because of Coronavirus, many employers and organisations have been forced to rapidly adopt remote and flexible working practices. A lot of organisations have probably survived precisely because they adopted this new way of working.
Employees have proven the value of flexible, dynamic, agile employment. Now is the time to make it standard practice.
What I’d like to see happen
I’d like to see the following changes become the norm across all employers:
- Adopt flexible working as standard practice in all viable roles
- Appoint a flexible working champion in each workplace, someone who balances their family / caring responsibilities and can help colleagues do the same
- Ensure all managers are given diversity training so they understand the pressures that mums, dads and carers are under
- Research who makes flexible working requests, how many are granted, how many are turned down and the reasons why they are turned down to see if there any patterns or issues to address.
Of course, there are good employers who have already taken all of these actions. There is still much more to do and many employers could make their organisations considerably more ‘carer friendly.’
The Changemaker campaign is very personal to me. Back in 2011 I left full-time employment because I didn’t feel I could balance the needs of my family and my employer.
Unfortunately, I think it is a common problem for employers to overlook the fact men are increasingly active at home and need to be hands-on because their partners are also working. Times have changed and so should employment practices.
As a Changemaker, I’ll be regularly posting to LinkedIn. This link will take you to my LinkedIn profile where you can follow me.
A community of people interested in expanding flexible working to all carers is also going to be established on LinkedIn. Please do get involved with that and follow the other Changemakers.
You can also watch the video below in which I explain my role and why I am so passionate about it.
There will be further updates and more activity in the weeks and months to come. For now though, please do follow me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think about the idea of making flexible working standard practice for everyone, especially carers.