Clare Scully, Director of Clinical Development for Bupa Group and UK, shares her thoughts on the changes and challenges that may occur as many of us prepare to return to the office.
When I took on caring responsibilities, for me, I knew I couldn’t give my very best to my young children if I felt I was in someway conflicted with my professional ambitions and yet I wanted to be as present in their everyday lives as I could. It was this in mind that I took a part-time role 7 years ago.
Since that point I have worked flexibly. The times, and hours have differed with the roles I have held, but I’ve managed to try and hold some sort of semblance of balance about what matters to me throughout. That balance is something which is personal to me and so only I can make the judgements on how/where I spend my time to ensure I deliver results in my role, and also participate in day-to-day family life (even if it drives me round the bend at times!).
When I first started working flexibly it was something I was not vocal about – but I am increasingly aware that I am the best (well at least an OK!) version of myself at work as a result of being held accountable on what I have led my team to deliver – not on the hours I’ve done that within. This has never been more true than over the past 5 months when isolations, lockdowns and general fatigue has put added pressure on pretty much everyone I interact with.
I’m very cognisant that the next few months will bring new challenges, including preparing to come back into office environments with all the emotions that will evoke. I know this will test my own boundaries of what “flexible” now means to me – and how I perform best across a physical and virtual office environment. So far, I’ve recognised the following:
- It's up to me to make the decisions about what’s most important. Sometimes that will be a work deadline over being involved in bedtime stories; sometimes its missing out on being part of a new project to attend school events (even if that’s remote at the moment). Over time, what I’ve realised is this sense of responsibility in regards how to I spend my time has enhanced my personal productivity.
- By questioning (almost!) every meeting I accept, every project I put myself forwards for and every opportunity that has come my way,I have had to become pretty ruthless about how I fill my diary (and cutting out any wasted time or procrastination, wherever I can). It has made me face up to my strengths, recognise areas where I need support, be open and clear with my colleagues and above all, realise my role within a wider team.
- I have also had to be honest with myself about my own resilience – though I’d be first to admit I’m still a “work in progress” in this regards. Juggling things can feel like an artform - one which can be incredibly rewarding when it works, and a huge burden when it doesn’t. Knowing how to prioritise when children don’t sleep through the night, homeschooling duties call (please never ever again!), getting outside for exercise (aka exhausting the kids…. see photo for proof!), my own yearning for academic study….. or when I feel a personal accountability to complete a report late into the evening.
- I’ve also tried to stop comparing myself to peers and friends – my barometer of success needs to be my own, not what I see on social media.
- Most importantly, I know a sense of personal reward and value from my work matters to me. Then I know I can trust my instincts about what to prioritise, when and how.
I know I’m not alone – many of us now work flexibly – across careers, employers, caring responsibilities, sporting ambitions, lockdowns and many other reasons aside. I’d love to know what you’ve recognised in yourself?
So my quest for the next few months is to consciously develop my approach to flexible working – including celebrating my part-time status, managing my boundaries better and most importantly contributing the best that I can. All help gratefully received as I continue the juggling act!