How to avoid the downside of flexible working

Working Late


Flexible working is one of the great benefits of working in the 21st century. We can now work from home, in our local café, on the beach or even in the jungle if we wish (though watch out for the spiders…). This way of working enables us to perfect the rare work life balance. Yet for many working mums flexible working isn’t a straightforward quick-fix for these issues, especially when juggling the needs of a screaming child against that report you really, really need to finish off.

Recently, a new report by American academics has revealed the darker side to flexible working. Although this type of working can improve work /life balance, for some it is leading to a blurring of boundaries where people are unsure of expectations when it comes to their on/offline hours. This means they are unable to fully enjoy the advantages of agile working such as the free time gained from not having to commute, the ability to avoid office politics and more time to be with loved ones. This can cause anxiety and impact their health and potentially that of their families if it isn’t managed properly by the employee and employer.

Setting Boundaries

To remedy any issues it’s important that your employer instils some boundaries so you feel secure and in control of your work if you decide to adopt flexible working. If you enjoy working from home but you are struggling to switch off, it might be worth checking with your employer:

– What hours you should definitely be online and offline (and therefore not contactable)

– What expectations there are around picking up emails, texts and phone calls

– Whether an employer is happy for you to work from different locations rather than just from home, for example, in a café.

Enjoy the time you save

Remember what goes hand in hand with flexible working is taking advantage of the time you are gaining back – for example, being around to pick up the kids from school, enjoying learning a new hobby or embarking on a new passion project. At Vario, our lawyers work on a flexible basis: some work certain hours of the week or months of the year so they can look after their kids, enjoy hobbies or run a business on the side.

Flexible working is what you make of it – it can give you more opportunities to be with the people you love at home and to spend less time in the office. My advice would be to weigh up the positives and potential downsides of flexible working, set your boundaries and check measures with your employer so you feel in control and fully relish what agile working has to offer you.

*Matthew Kay, Director at Vario for Pinsent Masons. Vario is a hub of freelance legal professionals available to undertake a wide variety of assignments from fixed-term projects to maternity cover.

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