Raising a young family, I often used to daydream about flexible working. With previous employers, a lack of precedent and the culture of presenteeism was enough to deter me from even asking the question. I had always worked with managers who thought working from home meant shirking responsibility and not pulling your weight. The same managers would chastise you for being a few minutes late and expect you to stay well into your evenings without batting an eyelid. The same managers would stir anxiety over a simple request to attend my children’s sports day.
Everything changed when a new line manager joined the organisation. I still remember the knot of fear in my stomach as I asked to attend my children’s school picnic, and fumbling in surprise when she agreed without hesitation that I was willing and able to manage mine and my teams’ workload.
I occasionally feel that identical feeling of anxiety which I carry from years spent in toxic workplaces. However, working at Glassmoon those feelings are immediately dwarfed by the positive and flexible environment I am able to work in now. I appreciate that I am extremely fortunate to work in such a supportive culture that has enabled me to combine the job I love with my family commitments.
Geographical separation, technological advances and greater individual pressures have made effective remote working both more important and more achievable than before. COVID-19 has put a rocket up this trend, with white-collar companies in particular such as Google, Facebook and Amazon in no rush to bring employees back to the office. The likes of Barclays may permanently reduce its large office space, while the civil service has been reducing real estate overheads for years.
The current crisis has shown that performance will not take a hit while improving employee wellbeing. The actions of these large firms now will likely determine whether that knot of fear over presenteeism and fixed working patterns will be replaced by a more positive approach to remote and flexible working. I, for the sake of anyone who’s ever found themselves in the same situation, sincerely hope it becomes the norm, rather than the exception.