Following a meeting between Heads of Profession last week, I felt compelled to bite the bullet. To write the blog post I've been intending to write for a long time and that's because a topic that I feel really passionately about dominated the second half of the agenda, flexible working. Specifically, smart working.
I work as Product Lead at the Parliamentary Digital Service (PDS). I've been in post since we restructured, after spending 6 years overseeing digital projects within the Web and Intranet Service. I head up a team of product managers and we’re in the middle of embedding product as a profession across the organisation. We'll be blogging about how we're doing that soon.
The 6.05 from Colchester
I really like my job. Most of the time. It’s rich, rewarding and makes getting on a freezing cold train at 6.05am from Colchester almost bearable. And anyway, it's only for 2 days a week as I work part-time (3 days a week, with one of those spent working from home in a small village in North Essex). On my days off, I am less Product Lead and more Play-Doh Lead.
I have two little people who will only be little for a short time. They’re the reason why smart working is so important to me. While I remain a committed and ambitious employee, there's plenty of small person stuff that I don't want to miss out on either. Obviously the things like nativity plays, nursery stay and play sessions, first days at school and the big milestones. But beyond that, I want to put my daughters to bed more often than I don't each week.
I want to see who they’re playing with at nursery when I pick them up. I want to enjoy that glass of wine after bedtime knowing that I earned it after repeated readings of Meg and Mog (which sadly don't stand up to my own fond childhood recollection of the series). I don't see why working as Product Lead for PDS should stop me from doing any of these things. If anything, where I work is the very reason that I should be doing them. If the digital people can't work remotely, flexibly, smartly, then who can?
On my office days, I’m in work at 7.30am and leave at 3.30pm to get back in time for nursery collection. I work on the train into Liverpool Street and out again. My most productive day of the week (in terms of output) is my sacred Friday working from home. It's a standing appointment in my calendar and it's when I get a lot of my work-related thinking and paperwork-type stuff done. I get my head down, plough through the to-do list which has accumulated after two days in the office of back-to-back meetings.
I do phone calls, emails, Skype, Slack. If my team need me - or anyone else - they know where I am, and that I am entirely contactable. To sum up, work gets done. Plus I get to do the childcare drop off and pick up and work around the timings for those. I often log on early and work a bit later. It works for me, and it seems to be working for everyone around me. I need to keep a constant check on it, but I think that's an important part of smart working. Thinking flexibly about working arrangements and adapting to changing needs.
Getting your job done in a way that suits you
My home situation means a smart approach to working is critical. But it's not something afforded only to people with family commitments or long train journeys. Senior management within PDS completely support smart working for all staff irrespective of personal circumstances.
The message I took away from the Heads of Professions meeting was very much: work where (and how) you need to work to get your job done in the way that suits you. Coffee shops, creative spaces, quiet office spaces, from home. Depending on the task at hand, mix it up and base yourself where it best fits. No one is being measured by hours clocked at desks in the office, outcomes are what matters.
Performance is based on results, rather than presence. Of course, for some roles, it may be more of a challenge to work smartly due to aspects of the job that need you to be onsite.
PDS is adopting a flexibility first approach where flexibility is the norm rather than the exception. Everyone is assumed to be capable of smart working without assumptions being made about people or roles. It's a big culture change and I would say we’re in the middle of it but I've definitely seen more evidence of people working smarter.
For me, smart working means I can balance the demands of a young family with the demands of a busy job. I like to think I support my colleagues and team members to work in ways that fit them and it's pretty exciting to see how we’re making it work. It means a lot to me, my colleagues and my family that PDS is giving me the flexibility to be both Product Lead and Play-Doh Lead.
Interested in working for PDS? Find out more and take a look at our latest vacancies.