How to leave work on time and still be seen as committed
“How can I leave on time and still be seen as committed?” In a room of coaches and employers at a seminar we ran at the University of Hertfordshire on maternity comeback coaching recently, this was the subject participants honed in on out of 28 themes marked up for potential discussion.
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The question comes up time and again when working in a coaching relationship with maternity returners. It’s often on the mind of anyone who is switching to a flexible style of working that goes against the cultural norm of their organisation. But predominantly it’s on the minds of mothers, and is likely to stay that way until it’s equally likely a man as a woman is primarily responsible for caring for their offspring. Or that our culture supports and even expects, care to be shared evenly.
Going against the grain has never been easy, but it can be more comfortable. In this post I’m signposting a few ways to manage the perceptions others have about your organizational commitment as a ‘flexible worker.’ An extended version of this post including practical suggestions for line managers can be found on www.talentkeepers.co.uk.
Remember that at least some of the (negative) perceptions you believe others’ have about you specific to your flexible working patterns, are all in your mind.
- Discuss it as a team
Firmly suggest flexible working to go on the team meeting agenda and ask your colleagues to be frank about opportunities and concerns they see with changes to the way you work. Use this time to demonstrate how you can mitigate potential problems and how there may be upsides for the team. For example, perhaps you’ll do early starts or late finishes that could be of wider benefit? By getting it out in the open and ‘thrashing it out’ you’re essentially asking colleagues to put up or shut up. Once it’s done, you have your licence to crack on and do a great job, flexibly.
- Think “I’m a role model, a culture-shaper”
Don’t apologise or demonstrate body language that suggests you are doing something wrong, when you leave the office whilst others are still at desks. You may be doing something different to others, but that isn’t the same as ‘wrong.’ And remember that some people may be watching you and essentially thinking ‘there goes a role model – that gives me permission to do it too.’
- Offer alternative communication channels
If a colleague tries to catch you on your way out (and you’re already wondering if you’ll make pick-up from childcare on time) say you’re happy to carry on the conversation by mobile. Signal you’re going to dial them as you continue moving toward the door.
- Demonstrate the benefits
Remind your colleagues of the research around the positive correlations between flexible working and commitment. You’re savvy enough to find an appropriate way to sprinkle a little of Cranfield University’s Clare Kelliher and Deirdre Anderson’s research that finds flexible workers record higher levels of job satisfaction and organizational commitment than their non-flexible counterparts. And that this is probably due to social-exchange theory where the ‘flexee’ responds to the granting of flexibility by exerting additional effort.
- See the longer view
And finally, if you’re still feeling on edge, imagine you are leaving one office to walk to another to carry on the day with a client, colleague or to work quietly in isolation away from the distraction of an open-plan space. You might smile as you walk out, pondering how ridiculous your children and grandchildren will find these tales of furtive escape from the office in years to come, when the working world has evolved some more.
What other suggestions do you have based on your own experience of working flexibly or creating strong teams who operate flexibly? Please add your thoughts to the post using the box below – when we share what works we make working life better for everyone.