Leave it at the door? #CIPDBigConvo

This blog post has been contributed by Mark Hendy.  Mark is part of the South Wales HR Forum, and leads popular Twitter chat #HRhour. You can find Mark on Twitter as @MarkSWHRF.

I’d like to start with a quote

“You keep your home life personal, and you leave it at the door when you come in to work”.

I believe this quote (or a variation on the theme) has been said probably millions of times all over the world. Cue the famous ‘Young Ones’ sketch of “i’ve told you a million times, never to exaggerate..”

But really, if only life was that simple.

If someone knows the real way to achieve equilibrium in balancing work, life, families, hobbies etc, then please let me know.

I’m an organised person. I never used to be. I mean, I really never used to be until I had to be. I use tools such as Todoist that help me keep on track. I use my smart phone to keep on top of work and emails, and I use my tablet to work quickly and easily wherever I am. I believe in work/life integration and I believe discipline is important to keep something of a balance. Technology has changed my life, like it changes everyone’s life. I’m way better than I used to be.

Life is not easy for most people. Stuff is always happening that alters our ability to control and keep things as normal and regular as possible. And what life doesn’t need is artificial issues and unnecessary obstacles to make things more difficult than they ought to be.

I’m really glad that the CIPD has started this conversation, because it’s important. And it is a big conversation. Technology has improved dramatically and is enabling all sorts of improvements to how people can carry out large parts of their work. Employment legislation is maturing and acts like the Equality Act 2010 is affording protection for people from being discriminated against for several reasons. But the third circle in what would be my venn diagram, is about attitude.

Attitudes towards accepting that there are ways to accommodate the ongoing challenges of balancing work and home life, still has some way to go.

The traditional mindset of the traditional workplace is changing, and we are in a transitional period where education is important. Someone once asked me “How can I listen to this persons request to work flexibly and show appreciation for the reasons why they want to work flexibly” and my reply was “to actually appreciate the reasons why they want to work flexibly, not just want to appear is if you do”.

For business to truly embrace working families and help unleash the benefits that this can bring, they need to adjust to being a real and authentic family-friendly employer, not just one who claims to be. Business needs to find a reason to make it easy for people with families to work effectively and flexibly, and not be the type of employer that views a one-off short-term absence for an unplanned family issue to be debilitating and unacceptable.

Business needs to find a reason to embrace workers who have these demands, and not start at ‘no’ and then degrade the employee at having to justify tirelessly all the reasons why they need to modify their working arrangements in some small way, decimating the psychological contract that is important between the employer and the employee.

And why do businesses need to do this. I could articulate a reason why it would be good for business, and there are many to choose from, but to put it bluntly, they need to do this because it’s simply the right thing to do. Because it’s the morally correct thing to do. Because its a humane thing to do.

When will we know if things have really changed?

  • When people can stop feeling guilty about submitting flexible working requests.
  • When people who work from home occasionally don’t feel as if they are asking for a ‘day-off’.
  • When a parent who needs some leave at short notice to take their child to an appointment, doesn’t feel like they are being disruptive.
  • When someone does not even need to think about the effects on their career of taking maternity leave.
  • When a father can comfortably explain to their manager, the level of support they need to provide their partner/children at home while the family are adjusting to some form of significant change, without feeling judged.

We’ve a way to go – and conversations like this, are an excellent way to start. Enjoy the conversations and discussions over this period, take the learning back to your employers, and fly the flag for this initiative. Better work and working lives.

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