Finding the perfect flexible role

Gemma Saward talks to about how she got her flexible part-time role at WH Smith.

Gemma Saward


It can sometimes be a struggle to get back to work after a career break, but Gemma Saward found her perfect job on after taking some time out due to childcare problems.

“It was me written down, my job spec, my cv,” says Gemma who works for WH Smith’s HR department. Not only that, but she has got the flexible hours she needs as a single mum and a better salary than she had in her previous role.

Gemma was an MI [Management Information] Analyst at a national mortgage company before she took her career break. The job involves analysing data to aid effective HR and business planning and decision-making. She had been full time for 18 months before her son was born five years ago and was eventually allowed to go part time after extended time off for maternity leave. When problems developed with her childcare, she decided to take some time out to be with her son before he started preschool. She was off work for a year during which time she split up with her husband.

The perfect job

From last April Gemma started looking for part-time jobs, googling ‘work for mums’. By chance she came across her perfect job as an MI Analyst at WH Smith’s Swindon office. When she started her son was still in pre-school and his hours were erratic. For the first couple of months she was able to work different shifts around his preschool schedule.

When he started school she moved onto school hours and now works Monday, Wednesday and Thursday until 2.30pm and until 3.30pm on Tuesdays. She can also work from home if necessary, though she prefers not to. She says she has felt comfortable asking for the flexibility she has had from day one. “I’ve never had any issues, or when her son has been poorly.  I feel it is fine to ask questions about flexibility if I need it. It brings a massive peace of mind that I didn’t have before,” she says.

Gemma has recently moved from her MI Analyst role to working in WH Smith’s mental health project team. WH Smith has been a pioneer in promoting mental health at work and was recently among 50 employers who signed a letter calling for the Government to put mental health on an equal footing with first aid in the workplace.

Gemma has been trained as a mental health first aider and says she has already benefited from the company’s proactive approach to mental health when she was going through her divorce. She is currently planning mental health awareness training for 300 store managers in the first half of next year. “It’s a really interesting job,” she says. “I love it.”

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