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Learn how to work flexibly in a job that is not 9-5pm

Associate lawyer, Tom Edwards from Pinsent Masons talks about how he manages his life

Increasingly more men are combining flexible working with childcare (in fact, no fewer than, 37% of our job seekers are men). One of those dads working flexibly is Tom Edwards, Senior Associate at Pinsent Masons who happily talked to us about his flexible working.

Hi Tom, so tell me about your flexible working arrangement?

Two and half years ago I had my little boy and I wanted to share the childcare arrangements with my wife and to have some time to spend with him. I had a discussion with my managers and it was quickly agreed I would finish two days a week at 5pm and I would have every other Friday off so I was working a 9-day fortnight. I also agreed to log on once my son was in bed. There has been a new agile working policy introduced to Pinsents since my agreement but I have had no need to revisit the original agreement.

How did you go about agreeing the arrangement?

I wanted to find a balance between spending time with my little boy but not feeling marginalised and having the ability to do my job and do it well. I originally sat down with my manager to discuss working flexibly and reducing my hours. My manager was positive and open to having the conversation and I knew what I was willing to accept, so we were able to have an open conversation on how I can manage the role and to deliver my objectives. A lawyer is not a 9-5pm job so any arrangement has to work for the business. The best way is to think things through from the employer’s perspective, and posit the request for flexibility as a solution which can satisfy the needs of the business as well as your own. I also gave my assurances in regard to availability so at times I have put in extra hours to make it work.

Are there any hard bits about working flexibly?

Generally, no, the hardest bit is leaving at 5pm as this is quite often when submissions are made or work is reviewed and feedback is given and I am not available. I more than make up for it after 7pm but sometimes it can be inconvenient and meetings may have to be arranged around it but everyone knows the routine so in the main it is manageable.

Many women in the same position talk about feeling guilty when they have to leave work ‘early’? Do you ever feel guilty?

No, because it is something I have agreed with the business. I more than make up for it in the evenings and work hard during the day. I always deliver. I guess the only times I would ever feel guilty is if I have to ask someone else to do the work that I am unable to do because I am leaving at 5pm and there is a deadline. My advice would be not to feel guilty or embarrassed about how you want to combine work and family life. It may be different to others but it is all about what works for you, your family and the business. Everyone is different.

How do you make working flexibly work for you and your team on a day-to-day basis?

I am very proactive in managing my diary. I am very organised and manage people’s expectations. If it is important for the Partner to get out a piece of work between 5-7pm I will manage this, with the partner to make sure the deadline is hit and I am able to leave at 5pm. I find being upfront and direct about how I can manage the deadline is the best policy so there are no nasty surprises. Generally people are absolutely fine if you work on this basis.

Is flexible working common in Pinsents?

Yes, a new guideline has been introduced for agile working since I formalised my agreement. Pinsents are very good at promoting agile working, i.e. working in different offices, locations, from home etc. There are also many informal arrangements where staff may go to the gym in the afternoon and then work later. For lawyers it is easy to see how productive they are from their billable hours.

You can tell us, does everyone believe in flexible working?

In the main, yes. There are always some who are not keen on it, but my experience is that the business support it and it is recognised that by doing so they are able to retain the people they want in the business.

Flexible working is always going to suit a more trusting and relaxed management style rather than bosses who like to micromanage. I think agile working, i.e. from home or a different location, is mainstream now. Formal arrangements I see less of but both men and women both have access to flexible working arrangements but it still mainly women.

Many job seekers and employees are concerned that working flexibly may impact their promotional prospects. What do you think?

It could be possible, as you may be seen as not as committed as others in your peer group who work longer hours and you may not be able to attend networking events, so you are less visible to your seniors. However, there are ways around it. I try to organise my networking for breakfasts and lunches instead. Keep communicating with your peers and Partners and at annual appraisals you need to focus on what you have achieved including your networking, non-chargeable hours as well as your project work.

Tom, thank you for your time, it has been an absolute pleasure and Happy Fathers day on the 18th June, although your son is not quite at that stage when you will receive breakfast in bed!

Written by Sarah Broad

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