An­gela Hart­nett’s risot­toriso master­class

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

like foot­ball, you don’t make great money from it, and I need to think about my long-term prospects for when my sport­ing ca­reer even­tu­ally comes to an end.

I work full time in Lon­don, but take a train up to Glas­gow on Thurs­day evenings when I have a week­end train­ing camp. I fit work and emails around train­ing on the Fri­day and make it up through­out the week.

I also get time off for matches – I had about 20 over the sum­mer.

I know I’m re­ally lucky, but I do think it ben­e­fits the com­pany, too. It cer­tainly feels like a two-way re­la­tion­ship.

The trend has led to the TUC an­nounc­ing last month that a four-day work­ing week is a re­al­is­tic goal for most peo­ple by the end of this cen­tury – an en­tic­ing thought. Is it be­cause, with British work­ers pushed to the brink by phones that ping around the clock with ur­gent emails, in ad­di­tion to the long­est hours in Europe, we are fi­nally seek­ing greater life bal­ance? Per­haps. But, sur­pris­ingly, busi­nesses are see­ing the ben­e­fit, too. “Done well it cre­ates a win-win sit­u­a­tion for work­ers and em­ploy­ers,” Matthew Per­ci­val, CBI Head of Em­ploy­ment pol­icy, says. “Em­ploy­ers get ac­cess to a wider pool of peo­ple, re­tain em­ploy­ees and in­crease the pro­duc­tiv­ity of their peo­ple. For em­ploy­ees it means greater free­dom to or­gan­ise their dif­fer­ent re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, such as fam­ily and car­ing.”

Flex­i­ble work­ing is par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing to work­ing moth­ers. “We’re hav­ing kids later now, so the like­li­hood is that women have a ca­reer al­ready,” An­nie Rid­out, au­thor of The Free­lance Mum: A Ca­reer Guide for Bet­ter Work-life Bal­ance, says. But it’s re­duc­tive to think flex­i­ble work­ing as only ben­e­fit­ing par­ents. Child­care was only cited as a rea­son for work­ing flex­i­bly by three in 10 re­spon­dents, ac­cord­ing to Time­wise. “I have friends who do shorter weeks be­cause they sim­ply want a bet­ter work-life bal­ance,” Rid­out says. “They might spend that last day work­ing on a creative project, ex­er­cis­ing, vis­it­ing gal­leries and mu­se­ums or just re­lax­ing.”

Per­ci­val says flex­i­ble work­ing func­tions best when it is “hard-wired into job ad­verts from the be­gin­ning”. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Karen Mat­ti­son, co­founder of Time­wise, fewer than one in 10 job ad­verts men­tions the op­tion of flex­i­bil­ity. So when should you bring it up? “That con­ver­sa­tion is a bit of an art,” she ad­mits. “If it’s not been men­tioned by them, it’s OK to wait un­til they’ve made some sort of in­di­ca­tion that they want you, such as ask­ing to see you a sec­ond time.”

Whether you are telling a prospec­tive new boss or your cur­rent one that you want to work in a dif­fer­ent way, Mat­ti­son has ad­vice. “A lot of peo­ple make the mis­take of em­pha­sis­ing why they want flex­i­ble work­ing, rather than how they will make it work for the busi­ness, or ben­e­fit the busi­ness,” she says.

“Don’t say you need it so that you can pick the kids up from school. In­stead, fo­cus on the 20 per cent of the wage bill that the em­ployer will be sav­ing, or the growth op­por­tu­nity for a ju­nior col­league to ex­pand into part of your role.”

Af­ter the ini­tial chat, you need to ap­ply for­mally. You only get one chance ev­ery 12 months, so you need to get it right. First check your em­ployer’s pol­icy: if they have one, it will set out how the re­quest should be made. “Re­quests should be in writ­ing stat­ing the date of the re­quest and whether any pre­vi­ous ap­pli­ca­tion has been made and the date of that ap­pli­ca­tion,” ac­cord­ing to Acas. The em­ployer then has to re­ply with a de­ci­sion within three months.

As­sum­ing your re­quest is granted, your next con­ver­sa­tion is about money. For those re­duc­ing their hours, it of­ten comes with a pay cut. You shouldn’t de­fault to the as­sump­tion that re­wards should be pro-rata. “In the­ory peo­ple should be re­warded on out­put,” says Lisa Un­win, co-au­thor of She’s Back: Your Guide to Re­turn­ing to Work, and founder of a com­pany that helps women get back to work. “But we have to ac­cept that’s of­ten dif­fi­cult to mea­sure. Our ad­vice is to fo­cus the dis­cus­sion first on de­liv­er­ables, value added, level of re­spon­si­bil­ity – and then get to hours.”

Al­though there are some mea­sur­able out­comes: “One woman I worked with agreed to take on ex­tra work when some­one went on ma­ter­nity leave,” Un­win adds. “Her hours re­mained the same and she wasn’t get­ting a pro­mo­tion. We ar­gued that the ex­tra re­spon-

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