For us at Attune Flex Jobs, role models showcase how individuals can marry their working and home lives successfully. It highlights how it can be achieved, provides guidance and motivation and sometimes inspires us.
If you asked anyone we recently interviewed, they would probably not agree that they are role models. Angela Norris – in charge of delivering Pinsent Masons‘ client relationship programme – is no different. But while this may be open for discussion, Angela and others who have shared their stories with Attune are showing us that there are different ways of working and for many different reasons.
Angela’s story is not dissimilar to many of us parents, as she works flexibly partly because of childcare challenges. However she started working this way because of ill-health as she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in her early 30s. It became clear early on that working long hours as a corporate lawyer would not be conducive to good health and that Angela would have to make some practical life changes.
When you made the decision to work flexibly, how did you go about it?
The first thing was to identify the right role. Events in my early 30s led me to explore a change in direction that offered more flexibility. While I was keen to look at options beyond fee earning (which can be pretty unrelenting) it was still crucial for me to have something that would be really interesting and challenging. The combination of business development (BD) and flexible working provided the solution. I hadn’t worked in a BD role before, but with 10 years as a corporate lawyer in private practice, as well as 5 in-house as a client, I had plenty of experience from ‘both sides of the fence’ and could approach the role with plenty of insight and practical skills.
Then it was about agreeing the working arrangements. I currently work four days a week spread across five, letting me fit in school pick ups as well as hospital appointments from time to time. I’m lucky to work in a team where it’s about getting the job done, not about sitting at your desk at certain times of the day. I sometimes log on in the evenings and weekends but I think that’s just part of it. It’s about managing your time productively to fit what needs done into the day, wherever and whenever. And I was very lucky that Pinsent Masons were so accommodating and helpful with my flexible working request.
Why do you think Pinsent Masons were so accepting?
I had previously worked for the firm and for one of their clients. So I had already built up relationships, a level of trust and had a track record for getting the job done. I was also very clear with my request on how it could work. I think you have to be able to put yourself in your employer’s shoes and think about any concerns they might have. You need to come up with the solutions for any potential issues.
How do you make it work?
I genuinely enjoy my job and love being with my family so at the end of the day I make it work because I want it to! In practical terms though there’s lots of thinking ahead and planning – but if things don’t go to plan, as occasionally they don’t, you need to be flexible.
It also has to be a two way street. So for example I often work with Board or Leadership Team members whose diaries are extremely busy. I have to be flexible to work around their schedules – if that means meetings on my afternoon off from time to time or later in the day then so be it. Sometimes I have to manage overseas trips but I have a very supportive husband who also has some flexibility with his job. Between us we just make it work.
Crucially though my experience has been that Pinsent Masons genuinely supports and facilitates this way of working and that’s what really makes it possible. There are benefits to both employee and employer and when it works well, it’s good for everyone. I think their approach is a real credit to them.
What are the benefits to you?
Put simply I wouldn’t have a challenging and interesting job like this if I couldn’t work flexibly. Life is pretty hectic – but very enjoyable and rewarding!
How do you work with others?
A few of us in the team work flexibly – one works three days and others work five days including days at home. On paper you might think it would be chaotic but we are constantly in touch either face-to-face, or by phone, email, WhatsApp, Jabber – whatever. It is being open to different ways of working: everyone has their preferences so it’s about not being too formal or prescriptive.
When I am in the office most of my days are taken up with meetings, catch ups, etc. I think it’s so important to sit down with people in person. Equally though on other days, I will block out time at home to focus on the written stuff – reports, etc. For me getting the balance right is crucial.
What would you recommend to others?
Decide if it’s something you really want – then make it work. Whatever the reason – childcare, health, outside interests – figure out how you can make it happen. You may need to ‘sell’ that idea to your Manager or Partner so make sure you understand the business needs and concerns as well as your own. Once the decision has been agreed, be clear with your team what days you are working and put that in in your out of office. Work flexibly with confidence – there’s no need to apologise or hide the fact that you’re not in as you’re not doing anything wrong! And be sure to keep delivering to a high standard.
Do you have your own role models?
I’ve certainly had people around me who worked this way and have been great advocates for flexible working. The more people do it, the more it becomes the norm and part of the culture – which can only be a good thing.
Role model or not, we are seeing more examples of where talented employees and potential employees’ requests for flexible working are accommodated and their reasons for the requests are becoming increasingly different. Showcasing individuals experience are good ways to show others that flexible working is not out of reach for both employee and employer. For other stories go to www.attunejobs.com/blogs