What is life balance?
More and more nowadays we hear about life balance in the press and across social media. Everyone seems to be striving for the perfect life balance. Does it exist? People talk about flexible working being the answer. Is it?
Recently, I have been debating internally and probably boring my friends too about whether we are actually better off with the “you can have it all” lifestyle. I think life is all about balance and happiness, but how do you get that in today’s world.
When I was made redundant on maternity leave, which I have since realised seems to happen to a ridiculously huge amount of mothers, I was given absolutely no chance to discuss the options. A friend of mine was also on maternity leave and out of ten managers we were the only two put at risk (and the only two on maternity leave!). I will never forget the crushing feeling of how it felt losing my independence and my right to be my own individual person. I knew I wanted to be around for my son, and I knew I would never get a similar job without being full time. If I am honest I expected that to fast forward nine years to 2019, that things would have changed, but I still meet a huge number of mums and dads who do not get treated with respect in their working careers.
Many women (and a few good men!) are now talking about the subject of flexible working on social media and actively lobbying really successfully to get governance in place, change the views of large businesses and try to improve the corporate world to enable us all to have a better work/life balance. I follow these all with interest and wonder (ironically!) how I will ever have the time to get on my soapbox and help with the challenge. Maybe that will be my retirement!
And through all of this, I can’t help thinking what is life balance…..is it part time working, owning your own business, staying at home.…or none of the above. Surely this can only apply to the person who is living their life and working out for themselves if they are happy. We are now left with many more choices than before. I can’t help but feel this is all a bit confusing, how do you decide what is best for you and your family?
I know it is hard when careers take off and suddenly life at home can feel pretty boring, but this all seems to happen at a really delicate age for most kids. It is almost like the new mid life crisis is trying to be more successful than the next person, maybe that is one of the pitfalls of social media or maybe it is just where I live. It is not something I think is healthy either way.
I believe that balance has to be what you agree in your household, children need their parents and structure in order to thrive and be happy.
Where does flexible working come in?
Flexible working is bending the old rules of how and where and when you need to run a business or do a job. Simple right …not really as there are some many unforeseen hurdles that you have to get through along the way. Most parents I speak to (admittedly mostly working mums but lots of dads too!) find that they are around a lot more for their children but are not necessarily in the room. What used to be clear working days (9 – 5) is now blurred through using time effectively elsewhere, picking up emails in the evening and generally being more available in order to relieve the guilt about the hour or two taken to watch a child’s performance or just the sheer amount of work they have on.
I guess time will tell if this has an impact on our children’s generation. I know I find myself constantly checking my emails, crazily (sometimes every 30 seconds) when actually I should be watching swimming lessons or karate practice. Or the football game my son has been so excited about. “Did you see that goal mummy?”………and so the guilt rolls on. What I should be doing and what I constantly tell my husband to do is to hide the phone, put it away, I know that these devices are not good for my kids or my life but yet I still do it ALL the time.
Despite this, I think flexible working is the way to go, it definitely gives me a happier team and personally a happier life. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that flexible working increases productivity and even loyalty to a business which I think it is so vitally important to running my own business. I have always worked with my team to have open and honest conversations from the very start. This should always form the basis of any working relationship.
I have learnt along the way in order for flexible working to co-exist with a business actually making money (otherwise let’s be honest there would be no jobs and no flexible working) there needs to be simple and clear guidelines of how this works. The responsibility of course rests with the employer. Conversations about how happy your team are at work are vital to ensure that you keep the best people.
I also wonder how much responsibility should be put on the employee. We need to ensure we are checking in with our teams, but also make it clear that teachers should talk to us about what works for them, that we encourage honest feedback within the workplace and we encourage flexible working. Certainly when returning from maternity leave we need to offer the opportunity to be honest and tell us what works. Ultimately if it works for them, then for the most part it works for business too, happy healthy employees with a good work life balance will undoubtedly make a business more successful for much longer, you cannot buy that level of experience or loyalty.
I think perhaps my favourite quote whilst researching all this was from Mother Pukka, a fantastic flexible working campaigner.
“Our employers are oafs: unimaginative, overly cautious, and unwilling to think beyond the 9-5.”
I really hope this doesn’t apply to me. I am certainly trying really hard for it not too. And let’s celebrate all the amazing women and men who are championing flexible working as being not only the best way forward for all businesses, but also the best way forward for happiness too.
The more small businesses I meet and speak to feel the same that the balance can be had between flexible working and making money. We should all be working together until large corporate businesses across the board also value their employees in the same way (although I am mildly panicking about how I have the time to do anything of value to the cause!)
Flexible working at Baby Squids
Luckily for me and the Baby Squids team, for the most part our job works really really well flexibly. My office team are all home based although this isn’t without it’s own challenges. Whilst we work really well together, I often feel that time is wasted or stress can build up over situations that could be easily managed by a quick chat over the desk. I know it is worth it as they stay and they help me grow the business, nothing we have done in the last 7 years would have been possible without a great team behind me and with me every step of the way.
Our franchisees, like me, are really enjoying the flexibility they have with running their own business. Work hard, play hard is the old saying, but there’s a lot of truth in that. No doubt, to create a successful business you need to work hard, but the support we provide our franchisees, along with the ability for them to choose their hours and how they work running their own business really does mean truly flexible working, which goes a long way to the “perfect life balance”.
How we summarise flexible working at Baby Squids
- Being flexible is about what the individual needs (it can mean some or all of these things – working from home, flexitime, term-time working, compressed hours and staggered hours)
- Communicate – making sure that all lines of communication are open (and employees know it)
- Watch for early signs of change that might impact an employee
- Being clear about what our expectations are and ensure the accountability is with all team members
- Keeping our infrastructure flexible
- Good understanding of the issues we might face
- Checking in often, ensuring we have regular updates
If you want to discuss how we do it and how you could change your life for the better then get in touch. We have franchising opportunities across the UK and yes I do run a business, so I do really want you to call and find out more about joining our Baby Squids family. But also I truly believe that life is about happiness and balance and ensuring that we give the next generation the best chance to navigate their way through this complicated modern world.