Pauline Smith, a mother of two, works full time in the HR department at Prudential in Stirling. She says she manages the work life balance with the help of her employer's flexible approach to work.
She has the flexibility to work outside a rigid 9-5 which allows her to pick up her daughter, who is nine, from an after-school club or to work remotely should the need arise.
While flexible working may not always be suited to the roles and the requirements within each department, in the appropriate circumstances and by the nature of the specific job, further flexibility can be achieved through home access to office systems, blackberries and mobile phones.
The company provides Pauline with access to her work computer system and all the documents she needs from home. She can conduct meetings via conference call and she has been given a Blackberry which is useful particularly when travelling away from the office.
Pauline, whose son is 14, has worked for the same company since leaving school. She started with Scottish Amicable which was later taken over by Prudential. After her son was born, she worked part-time and when her job grew she was able to decide to return to full-time hours.
However, Pauline was made redundant and when she had her daughter she stayed home for two years. Then a role on the HR team became vacant and she rejoined the company.
“I wasn’t working in HR when I was made redundant and when an opportunity arose in the Learning & Development team I was delighted to be offered the role,” she says. “When I returned to a new role it was like starting afresh, but there were lots of familiar faces which made it easier to settle in.”
It is a 15-minute drive from her house to her desk. Her parents also live nearby and can help out with childcare. Even so, there are times when she can’t ask them to stand in, for instance, if her daughter is ill. “I can give my boss a call and ask to work from home rather than trying to wake my parents at 7.30am to look after her,” she says.
Her daughter goes to a kids’ club at her school from 8am and also to an after school club. This means Pauline can be in work just after 8am and leave around 4.45pm.
Prudential also provides a bus service for workers at its Stirling campus which covers around 19 different routes. This really helped Pauline in last winter’s harsh weather. “I could not get the car out for several days so I got the bus,” she says, adding that the company operated an alert system whereby staff rang in during the cold weather to say if they were working from home or taking the bus so they knew whether to expect them in the office or not and could check whether they had arrived safely. There was an emergency number to ring to find out if there were changes to the company’s travel arrangements.
Many workers live locally, says Pauline, but some commute from Edinburgh and Glasgow. They can either drive to the office or use public transport to the centre of Stirling, from where Prudential operates a shuttle bus service to the office. As it’s located on the outskirts of the city, employees can also use the lunchtime shuttle to Stirling if they need to nip to the shops or bank.
Pauline works in the resourcing team and looks after the budget, management information, systems/processes within the team, and manages third party contracts (including the company which supplies temporary employees). She says that the majority of the roles that Prudential is recruiting for now, tend to be full-time ones and a recent survey showed 16 per cent of employees now have a formal flexible working arrangement.
There is also a private nursery on-site which adds to the convenience for parents working at Prudential’s Stirling office. Through the company’s flexible benefits package, Pru Choice, employees have the option of receiving childcare vouchers which can be used at the nursery.
Pru Choice allows Pauline to structure her work related benefits around her lifestyle, providing her with a fund equivalent to 5 per cent of her salary. From this she can choose to ‘buy’ a range of benefits including additional holiday up to 13 extra days, childcare vouchers, private healthcare, travel insurance and a range retail benefits. Pauline, for instance, has bought 11 extra days off this year and put money into childcare vouchers.
In addition there is encouragement for staff to be involved in the local community. Pauline and her colleagues in the HR team in Stirling recently went to a local primary school and in four groups painted a cloakroom with an underwater theme, painted games in the playground, built raised beds for the children to plant vegetables/flowers, and tidied up a garden area that was in need of some weeding.
“Originally I was a bit nervous when I came back to work full-time but there was no need to be. Prudential is a great place to work” says Pauline, adding that by having flexible measures in place and understanding colleagues it has made things much easier than she had ever anticipated.