Hoping for more flexible jobs post-pandemic

Loraine Hughes shares her story as a working mum and why she is optimistic about more flexible jobs being advertised after Covid.

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In a recent survey conducted by workingmums.co.uk, 73% of the respondents were optimistic that there would be more flexible jobs available after Covid-19. One person who’s hopeful about seeing more jobs advertised as flexible is Loraine Hughes. “If there’s one good thing that’s happened with Covid it is seeing that flexibility and home-working can be more efficient for some people,” she says.

Graduating with a masters in Microbiology, her career started in 1998 in Dubai, where she grew up, where she was a food hygiene officer at the Emirates Airline until progressing to the role of senior site manager.

However, in 2011 due to family reasons, Loraine moved to England with her husband and their son, Alexander, who was about to start school. Although moving abroad meant resigning from her job at Emirates and looking for a new one, Loraine was happy to do it for her family. Also,  Alexander’s teachers in England recognised that he had signs of autism and were able to help him through primary school, even if the official diagnosis only came when he was 11.

Once in England, Loraine and her husband agreed that she was going to be the one working full time as her qualifications offered her a salary which was almost double that of her partner. In 2012 she started her own consultancy company, which she only closed down during the pandemic, and was also headhunted by catering experts En Route International and offered a position as technical manager. She had progressed to technical director before leaving in 2018 to take over the childcare responsibilities from her husband.

Volunteering and getting back to work

She says she initially felt lost after leaving full-time employment and didn’t quite know what to do outside of caring for her son. That’s when she started volunteering for her community in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

Before the first lockdown she was already thinking about going back to work, but then homeschooling happened so she had to pause the search until the situation improved. However, that is not happening as fast as she would have hoped.

Her son’s autism diagnosis has made childcare more complicated than it usually is, which is why finding a flexible role now that she feels ready to work again is a necessity for Loraine. Her main priority is her son, which means her working hours need to be built around his schedule and needs. Even though Alexander is more independent now, Loraine explains that she still needs to be available in case of emergencies at school. For this reason she would like to find a job advertising reduced working hours, with the possibility to increase them in the future.

She is worried, however, that the main flexible roles advertised have been in the finance sector where the skills being sought do not match hers. She would like to see more flexible jobs advertised in the scientific field, particularly related to food hygiene. However, she’s optimistic that more businesses will see the benefits of flexible working and she knows that it is possible, as her family has been doing it for a decade.

Probably one of the main reasons for her optimism about flexible roles is that in her family working remotely started long before the pandemic hit. Before 2018, her husband was working from home and taking care of Alexander, while Loraine used to alternate one week working from home and one week travelling.

“We’re used to homeworking and I have my office and I used to go in when they needed me […] It was more efficient, I could connect with Australia or the US from home,” she explains.

When asked how she feels about returning to work, she answers that she has never really stopped working. “I don’t think I have taken a break because I use my negotiation and leadership skills with my volunteering,” explains Loraine.

The main reasons why she why would like to find a job is to have her own financial independence, or at least, a little bit of extra money, but also for her own sense of self-worth.

“I was so used to getting the money and when my husband went full time I felt a bit guilty and my husband said, well, we had a child and our main focus is for the child to be well-rounded,” Loraine says, adding: “It took me a while to get comfortable with that, but now I’m thinking, okay, if it’s just to have a bit of extra money to spend and independence I could do that.”

*The full survey results can be found here.

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