Why flexibility can go hand in hand with a career

Returning to work after maternity leave can be challenging as you need to settle in your job again while spending less time with your baby. It can feel like having a foot in two different worlds; the working world where you have to carry on functioning the same way you did before your baby was born, and your new life with your baby.

When discussing this return, 81% of mums to be don’t think it is possible to have a career while being a mother, due to a lack of structure and support from their employers. 33% of those women expect they will need to take a step back in their job: reduce working hours, reduce workload, take on fewer responsibilities[1].

Explore the different flexible work opportunities

Flexible working can be a solution to find balance between family and a job. This includes part-time, but also job shares, staggered start and finish times, working from home, compressed hours, term-time only work, and so on. For example across the 28 members of the EU, the number of people aged 20-64 working part time increased from 14.9% in 2002 to 19% in 2015. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the highest proportion of part-time workers can be found in the Netherlands, followed by Austria and Germany [2].

But as good as it sounds, part-timing is not that easy. You may end up working almost full-time for less pay or feel you are becoming the phantom colleague nobody ever remembers to invite to the Christmas party. So here are some tips on how to keep your career on track whilst working flexible hours.

Don’t apologise

You may have lost self-confidence as you haven’t worked for a while or decided to work part-time but this doesn’t make you a less valuable employee. Don’t use the word ‘just’ before ‘part time’ when describing your work patterns. Instead talk about your commitment, skills and experience. 

Make yourself visible

Be visible when you're in the office, be proactive in suggesting projects, ask for clear objectives to be reached and don't be shy to announce positive results of your work. Not everyone likes to show off but giving visibility to your work demonstrates you are adding value to the organisation and proves to your colleagues and superiors that flexible working can be as efficient as a full-time office job.

Be transparent

We all have a life outside of work and we shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about it. What will help shift perceptions and make your colleagues or clients more understanding is discussing more openly about the way you organise your day around your responsibilities. If you need to pick up your daughter at nursery or bring your son to the dentist, be transparent about it. It will also enable to build a trustful relationship.

Stay ambitious

Many people think that everything is a choice, women cannot have it all.  Becoming a parent is a lifestyle change that has a long-term impact but this doesn’t mean that you are giving up on your job. Having a baby can be a real confidence booster and the impetus to ask for a promotion or go for a bigger job that would benefit not only your career ambitions but your family’s financial security. Seek out mentors, sponsors, people who can help you to grow your career, just as you would if working full time.

Remember the bigger picture

Right now it may seem like a lot to juggle, and you could be wondering how you’ll manage to do both successfully. So don’t forget the bigger picture: the time when your child is small and most dependent won’t last as long as you may imagine. As they grow older, even though your children still need you, they are nevertheless more independent than when they are small babies. So make the most of it, cherish the moment and you’ll be back to being your old self quicker than you realise. 

[1] According to a study conducted by Merck Consumer Health in 2017
[2] http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Employment_statistics


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