I love working (I need to work). I love parenting (I need to parent). The two HAVE to work together. If studies f – 54,000 mothers feel pushed to leave employment every year – from pregnantthenscrewed.com are to be believed and the swathes of women (who happen to be mothers) being forced out of jobs are not to be ignored, we’ve hit breaking point. It’s packaged differently, sure, but in terms of women shattering that glass ceiling, we’re not as far away from Emmeline Pankhurst’s bra-burning days as she would no doubt have hoped.
But Karen Mattison and Emma Stewart MBE, founders of Timewise – a business focused on unlocking the jobs market for the millions of people seeking flexible work – are grabbing the workplace by the balls. Here we speak to Karen about businesses making it work.
You are GREAT. What you are doing is GREAT. Fill everyone in on how you are pioneering a new way of working…
I’m the joint CEO of Timewise, a business completely focused on unlocking the jobs market for the millions of people in the UK who want and need to work flexibly or part time. At the moment, although half of us work flexibly, we can get trapped in these jobs because when we look for a new one, only 1 in 10 quality vacancies are advertised in this way.
We have a job site www.timewisejobs.co.uk, which only promotes vacancies that are part time or flexible, and we support women who need extra help getting into work through our social business Women Like Us.
Emma – my co-founder – and I launched our businesses after coming up the against the same brick wall ourselves as candidates. The only jobs we could find that were openly advertised as part time, were low skilled, low paid and few and far between. We are working hard on building a better marketplace for the brilliant people out there who need such jobs. We now have an incredible 80,000 people on our books looking for part time work. Many, though by no means all are women looking for good quality jobs – and careers no less – to fit with family.
We are also campaigning to change the market and this week we have launched our most ambitious campaign to date: Hire Me My Way (www.hirememyway.org.uk).
Hire Me My Way calls for the opening of 1 million good quality part time and flexible jobs to part time and flexible working options – by 2020. To give you an idea of the scale of our ambition, this involves trebling the current ratio of such jobs in the market.
It’s all about trying to create a fairer, more transparent and more up-to-date jobs market for everyone. And we need all the help we can get… so if you like what we are trying to do then please help us by signing up and backing the campaign. If you are looking for a job right now you can also get some really good practical help on how to get a part time job in this difficult market. Because we know that you can’t just wait for things to get better!
What’s your work schedule like?
I work 4 days a week, and have always worked flexibly since having the first of my three sons 18 years ago. I have done every type of flexible working – school hours, 3 days, some from home etc. Now I have settled on a routine that feels like it works for me and for the business. I usually I typically work from home on a Wednesday, and take Fridays off. Emma, my co-CEO works a similar pattern. We have around 30 employees and many of them work part time and flexibly too, for a whole variety of reasons.
Do you have this elusive balance?
I think the concept of Work Life Balance is a bit of a funny thing… sometimes you think you have it, then it slips between your fingers. Sometimes the business needs more, sometimes the kids do… but I try and see it across the year or the month or the week rather than judge it too much day by day. I hope that when it really matters I can prioritise the right things.
So when my first son did his GCSE’s I wanted to take him to his exams so I planned ahead and organised my schedule around it. This week when we are launching this big campaign the kids know why and they know why I’m out more. But I promised to get home and watch Britain’s Got Talent every night this week with my 9 year old, which is important to him! I have found the whole thing easier as the kids have got older as I can talk to them about the week, about what’s going on for them and what’s going on for me.
Tell us one of your darkest moments balancing work and parenting…
More than 10 years ago before I set up Timewise I was doing some consultancy for another business and working from home. I was much less confident then than I am now about being boundaried and clear about what I can do and when. I was working for a client and they called me on my ‘non-working day’. Instead of just asking (as I would now) if what they needed could wait until the morning, I locked the study door with my young son on the other side. He didn’t understand what was going on and was banging on the door. I was too embarrassed to say what was happening. I thought there must be a better way and a way for us to be open about the tightrope we all walk… and I found it when I launched Timewise to have a more honest and open conversation about flexible work.
What’s your opinion on current flexible working in the UK?
At the moment I think there is a big block is on the career progression of flexible workers in the UK. So you are more likely to find flexibility you need in an existing role and the legislation supports. The problem comes when you want to move jobs… Yet for many of us, the flexibility we have (working from home or working part time) is as important as our salary in making life work. BUT it is hard to know how to talk about this with a new manager or employer. That is what people get trapped in low paid part time and flexible work. In some research Timewise did a couple of years ago 77% of people who worked flexibly said they felt trapped. They wanted to progress – whether in the same company or a new job – but were hitting a wall. THAT’s why I’m completely focused now on opening up the flexible jobs market through the Hire Me My Way campaign – and that’s why I need your support. Join the campaign here: www.HireMeMyWay.org.uk.
What’s your biggest tip/s for other mothers trying to make it work?
When I had my kids there was no right to return to work flexibly so that has changed and that’s great. But far too many people are finding they return to ‘part time’ jobs that actually still have full time requirements – because the role hasn’t been redesigned and the goalposts have stayed the same. IF you are returning to a job you did before and you want to go back for less days, I recommend you are proactive and begin an honest and open conversation with yourself and your manager about how this is going to work. Too many people accept the part time role without discussing how the role needs to be redesigned. And that’s setting everyone up to fail. IF it was a busy full job in 5 days, then you won’t be able to do it all in 3 days so take the time to redesign it with the business… don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best
And the other tip is not to try and be a superhero. You can’t do it all and there are some things that your kids really want you to do for them and others that it doesn’t matter if others do or if they slip a bit. Work out what is important and just do your best. One friend once said to me that it is enough to progress stuff on the personal to do list…. you don’t need to finish it! I used to worry that my kids didn’t seem to be doing all these activities and classes every after school – they just played football. Then I relaxed a bit and remembered that after school when I was young I just ate crisps and watched tv – and things worked out OK in the end.