Working mums all over the world face similar problems of trying to balance work and family life. One place where two women are trying to do something to ease the problems is Poland. Inspired by workingmums.co.uk, they are setting up their own website to promote flexible working in Poland.
Joanna Gotfryd and Agnieszka Kaczanowska launched Mamo Pracuj [Mummy work – if you want] in December, although they are still waiting for it to be officially registered. The site will include articles about everything to do with working mums from finding a flexible job, work life balance and how to transform your hobby into a business to how to start up a new business.
They say that in Poland there are very few companies that offer flexible working hours and few that offer part-time jobs.
Agnieszka and Joanna, who met at Krakow University where they both studied economics, have already attracted media attention in Poland. On 8th December they were interviewed on Poland’s main morning tv programme – Dzieñ Dobry TVN. This appearance brought a wave of support from mothers who were “stuck at home with their children and who want to work, but have no chance to find good childcare or the flexibility they need at work.”
Joanna is a mum of two girls aged one and five and has 10 years’ experience in export sales and marketing for an international flooring company. After her second pregnancy she asked to go back part time, but was told there was no chance of that. She started to look for a new job and could only find full-time options which required a lot of business trips away from home and long hours. “There was no flexibility. I did not want to see my daughters only at weekends,” she says.
Making the business case
She spoke to Agnieszka, who has two daughters aged four and one and a half. Her background is in working for NGOs as a web editor and manager specialising in labour market issues. Her work is based in Warsaw so when she moved to Krakow, she was allowed to work from home. She now works in a small co-working office, which she says helps her avoid the isolation of homeworking. “I need to be around people,” says Agnieszka. She has also created her own organisation to support parents with small children. One of her children go to nursery and she has a nanny for the other. “I try not to work more than six hours a day,” she says. That often means working in the evenings, but she clocks off at the weekend.
Agnieszka wanted to promote a similar set-up for other women. She and Joanna felt that there must be other mums who were looking to balance work and family life. “That’s when the idea came for the website,” says Joanna. The two searched Polish websites – there was nothing that promoted flexible working.
The two friends, who are both based in Krakow and communicate via email and phone, say that there top challenge is to convince Polish employers of the business case for flexible working. Most flexible working that there is in the country is in international companies, they say. They want to promote good practice and inspire employers and mothers and advertise flexible jobs on the site.
They feel that the economic crisis – Poland has an unemployment rate of around 12% – might give a boost to flexible working as it may mean employers don’t want to employ people full time and many women may need a job if their partner has lost one. However, Agnieszka says that employees may be more reluctant to ask for flexible working if there is a lot of competition for jobs. “It’s a question of changing the mentality,” she says.