Flexible Work Expert Amanda Seabrook Answers Your Questions For Working Mums Club

by Hannah Fox |
Published on

Missed our Working Mums Club Facebook chat with flexible work expert Amanda Seabrook? Don’t worry, you can read all of the expert advice she shared here

Twice a month at Mother&Baby we bring you the Working Mums Club Facebook chat – a chance to get your questions answered about balancing work and motherhood. This week, flexible work expert Amanda Seabrook, founder of Workpond was on standby to answer questions.

Amanda is a mum-of-three and took a career break after she started having kids. She couldn't believe how hard it was to find interesting flexible employment from scratch, so set up Workpond in 2011. It helps small and medium-sized businesses source experienced professionals, flexibly. She now has a growing number of clients keen to employ mothers part-time/on a project basis.

If you missed the chat, here’s what happened…

I work at a high-powered law firm and they're very much a 9am-7pm full-time-style firm. Or at least it feels like that sometimes. I'm one of only three mothers on my team. How do I approach them to ask for flexible work? I'm really nervous.

If nobody else has been successful in your firm, I would follow the standard guidance on making a flexible work application which you can find online. If there is someone that has achieved it I would ask them and get direct tips. I know of some excellent companies that are 'scooping up' high quality female talent as they leave their legal roles (when they don't get the flexibility they need) and employ them flexibly. 'Off to see my lawyer' is one.

I find it really hard to fit in what I need to do at work in my new flexible working hours agreement. Should I speak to my line manager? I keep having to work in the evenings or at weekends when I want to be spending time with my baby and husband.

That’s a very difficult question. This is often what happens – where people end up fitting their old five day job into three days. I would take advice from someone in your HR department, but it certainly isn't sustainable or right. This is often what makes mothers leave the workforce.

If I were you, I’d book in a meeting with your line manager to discuss your current workload, how you’re coping, and, if you’re not managing, ways you can reduce it without it impacting on the company. Make sure you have a member of the HR team with you in the meeting to provide support and remind you of your rights.

I really want to make a career change – I'm pregnant but can't face returning to the office to work the same hours that I do. Where do I start?

That’s a great question – you have lots of options. Firstly, there are many great career coaches out there that can help you decide what you want to do. Secondly, network and talk to friends to let them know that you are looking to change and to get ideas. You may be able to partner up and create something with someone else.

Thirdly, think of how you might become self-employed. Is there something you've always wanted to do? Can you do what you currently do on a self-employed basis?

It is like starting a business, but is do-able around kids and babies if you can earn enough from it. Fourthly, go through companies like Workpond to see what roles you can find. We are finding a growing demand from small companies for mothers on a flexible basis. They can see that talent is being wasted and are often much more relaxed about flexibility as can see that it makes sense.

I've just had my request for flexible working (8.30-5pm Monday to Thursday with a 30-minute lunch) turned down. I work as an account manager for an insurance company. They've said no as there is no one there to look after the account (my boss would be there in most cases but might be in meetings and therefore uncontactable.) They've refused on these grounds and I'm very disheartened. And advice would be welcomed, thanks in advance.

I'm so sorry to hear that. Unfortunately it will take years for some organisations to understand the benefits of rewarding good service with flexibility. You will have a dilemma now – to remain full time or leave and take your chances elsewhere.

The positive is that smaller companies are often much more appreciative of mothers and happier to allow flexibility. This does sometimes impact on pay, but then this can be balanced with the saving you make in childcare.

There's an initiative that has been launched by Lloyds Banking Group called the 'Agile Future Forum' that spells out the benefits TO BUSINESS of employing more flexibly (or in an 'agile' way). It may be worth making an introduction to you Heads of Business. It’s not a battle you can fight on your own – perceptions need to change.

Thank you Amanda, I will do that, they sound interesting. And thank you for your words of advice. That's exactly how I feel, like they'd rather lose me entirely than be flexible over 3 hours per week.

Thanks very much for your questions. I encourage you to look at your full range of options when it comes to working as a mother and also help businesses understand the benefits to them of employing flexibly.

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