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Flexible working: the good and the bad

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A recent article in The Guardian links flexible working with loneliness and increased stress and anxiety. Could such an appealing work benefit really be that bad?

Like most things, it’s largely circumstantial. For some working from home or out of the office is the dream setup, for others, it’s isolating and for some, it’s just necessary.

Flexible work is steadily on the rise. Some companies in Ireland now offer 100% remote work, such as the Canadian e-commerce company Shopify, while most offer a mix of flexible work and traditional work from an office location.

As a whole, most of us find flexible work appealing for one major reason – a better work-life balance. This balance can mean no commuting, more time for family and friends and the ability to work how you want. The appeal is so strong that in a recent Cpl survey 43% of people stated they’d value flexible work options more than a pay rise.

Flexible work is good news for employers too, it gives them access to a broader talent pool and can result in higher productivity.

To get a feel for the real impact flexible working can have I spoke to Rachel Walsh (via email), a recruitment consultant on the Cpl Finance team who works full time from home.

How long have you been working from home? What made you make the switch?

7 months now, it was either work from home or give it up altogether. I have a son with special needs and needed to be here full time.

Can you give me a bit of background to your day to day and your role in Cpl?

I was Manager of the Finance desk working Industry roles. Since I moved to working from home, I am now consulting on a full-time basis.

I basically drop my son to his adult services and sit at my desk (which Cpl provided), source and BD and basically try to close as many deals as possible. I am busier now than I have ever been, I am getting so much more time to source and talk to candidates and clients.

It’s been reported that people who work from home suffer more stress and a sense of isolation – would you say this is true? How do you manage working alone away from the rest of the finance team?

No, I wouldn’t say that at all. My billing has increased hugely since working from home. Don’t get me wrong I do miss the guys on the team, but I do come in to meet for social occasions and we have a Skype call twice a week. We are all up to date and I am constantly on the phone.

What do you think are the main challenges of working from home, and the main benefits?

The challenges for me as a recruiter are not seeing the candidates that come into the office. I depend heavily on the guys on the team flagging candidates with me. I do meet my own candidates but when you are in the office people pop in and it’s a good chance to meet.

The benefits are I’m totally focused on my role. There are no distractions – no water cooler chats or nipping out for coffee. It’s all head down. I can also do more out of my normal 9-5.30 as I’m not rushing for a train or needing to get home. You do have to discipline yourself and keep the washing until out of office hours though.

Keeping your team updated with regular communication and having a set routine are often cited as good tips for people working under flexible work arrangements – what works for you?

As I mentioned the Skype calls are great and making the effort to meet clients and candidates around times that suit everyone.

What tips would you suggest for someone struggling to work from home?

Don’t worry about the housework, cause let’s face it the ironing needing to be done, or needing to make the dinner does come up when working from home.

You might think I will just do this or that, but you can’t. You need to be as focused as if you were in the office, more so even, you have something to prove. Working from home does work.

Do you ever feel “out of the loop” with the office culture?

Sometimes. I’m not going to lie, but it’s up to me to put the effort in and make sure I’m not forgotten. I have to say the team are great, they include me in everything.

Would you say some time in the office is still needed?

Yes, I get in as much as I can. I struggle with getting someone to look after my son but when I can, I do.  It’s important for yourself. It’s nice to know that you are still very much part of the team which I am.

With regards to promotions and career progression, does being out of the office limits this?

In my case it does, not because I am not putting the work in but to be a manager and manage people the people need to see you.

Any other comments?

If you need the flexibility and it’s an option take it.  I am so happy with how things are going for me right now. Working from home totally suits my circumstances and I’m delighted that Cpl gave me the opportunity to prove that it can and does work.

Overall flexible working has its highs and lows. On one extreme it can be isolating, on the other empowering and a booster of productivity. To make it work keep the communication channels with your extended team open.

Attend social activities and meetings when you can, when you can’t use Skype or pick up the phone. Having the option to do one or the other is what makes flexible working so great.

If you’re interested in more articles like this sign up to our career insights newsletter. If you work within the finance industry and are interested in a new job opportunity get in touch with Rachel, she’d be delighted to advise.