Using flexible working to achieve the perfect work/life balance

When you’re expecting a child, nothing can prepare you for what’s to come. From relentless exhaustion, to the amount of luggage that subsequently accompanies you everywhere, to the need to re-balance your finely cultivated career against the needs of someone entirely dependent on you, nothing is ever the same again.

Photograph of Sian Morgan, Head of Communications, Department for Transport.
Sian Morgan

I went on maternity leave in February 2019, leaving behind a busy but rewarding job as Head of External Affairs at the Department for Transport – a role which I loved and thrived upon. In the weeks before the baby came, I found myself feeling bereft at leaving behind the job that had been my main focus for so long.

Of course, when my son arrived, I soon forgot about the affairs of government. But, after 12 months, I was ready to get back to work and regain a sense of “me”, albeit nervous about how that would work alongside nursery pick-ups and a 7pm bedtime (his, not mine…usually).

The GCS: An inclusive employer

Fortunately, when it comes to flexible working, there are not many better places to work than the Government Communication Service. Without debate, my request for compressed hours and one day a week working from home was agreed, lifting a huge weight of worry about childcare, and allowing me to focus on finding my stride back at work.

Now, after 7 months, I feel like I have achieved a great balance. I am able to work hard within a few longer days in my new role, but still have plenty time to spend with my toddler. My non-working day is a Thursday, which means I can use the traditionally quieter Friday to catch-up and start the next week completely up-to-date. I have never once felt at a disadvantage, and all of my colleagues are supportive of this arrangement too.

New ways of working

But of course, these flexible working opportunities shouldn’t just be for parents.

This period of working more flexibly throughout the Covid pandemic has given many of us a new perspective on how new patterns can support a good work/life balance, while simultaneously boosting our productivity at work. Without a commute, we can log on later than we’d have left the house but earlier than we’d have been sitting at our desks, and so get more done during the same working day. Without needing to dash between rooms or buildings every hour, we are on time for our virtual meetings and giving our colleagues our full attention for the duration. When we do come into the office, we are dedicating the time to being more present for our teams and qualitative in-person conversations.

So I hope colleagues will use this National Work/Life Week to reflect on some of the lessons that we have learnt over the last few months about flexible working and balancing priorities, and think about how we can implement them when we return to whatever normality awaits us post-Covid. The benefits, both professionally and personally, could be endless.

Further resources

In our recruitment guidance section, we offer tips and techniques for part-time working in communication.