Remote Flexible Work Pitfalls for Parents

There’s no two ways about it: becoming a parent means leading a successful career just becomes a lot harder. Children’s needs are unpredictable, as is access to childcare/educator facilities where children may be while you work. This was amplified when COVID-era rules resulted in shut-downs, snap lock-downs and childcare closures happening with only minutes’ notice with varying durations. Further to that, societal expectations on working mothers ramps up the pressure to be a perfect mum, while simultaneously managing a project, or theorising how a change in a data model might influence a potential downstream data migration problem!

Having a job that offers flexibility in working hours for mums and dads can be just the solution for working around the chaos and pressure. I am one of those lucky ones who can work just about any time from remote locations to get my hours done. There are client meetings that need to be met, but the majority of my work can really be done at any time. This means I can spread the work out, and still be available to my colleagues when they need my insights.

As long as the communications are good and the job gets done, then all is well. Right? Not exactly. 

Working remotely and unusual hours means co-workers can assume you are available anytime. There’s no point saying flexible and remote is perfect, because it is not. No working arrangement is. You may find yourself being communicated to at unexpected times, or times when your kids really need you, but you still feel pressure to respond immediately. Having your hours spread-out and not always at consistent times, means it’s difficult for colleagues to know when you are available, even if you have a digital on/off signal system running like we use in our internal Chat system. This compounds when working on multiple projects as the respective teams have two layers of abstraction (e.g. Is she on? And if so, is she on my project?).

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

But if you are like me and really like your job, there’s a two-way sense of responsibility and you make it work. I am no expert at juggling – in fact I cannot type an email and talk to someone else at the same time like some can, but here are some things I am trying out to make it work:

    • Try to not feel guilty for not being there 9.00 – 5.00 everyday: I actually feel guilty all the time, but I shouldn’t… Actually, at Gaia Resources we are not just accommodating the occasional child screen bombing an online meeting; we support flexibility for all, where making a doctor’s appointment or having to run some errands then making up the time later is not an issue. 
    • Let my digital signatures do the talking: I may have missed that conversation at 9.00am, but I laid the groundwork for what we’re doing earlier that morning at 5.00am. It’s easy to feel anxious when you can’t join the big conversations first thing in the morning, or at lunch, or start thinking that people might be judging you for not being part of these conversations. But I let my work do the talking, and know that I’ll always contribute when I’m needed, and there’s a timestamp to show.
    • Lay down some boundaries: there may be some mystery about whether I’m on but I have set some specific times and that I will not be on. Tuesday morning and Fridays are out, and that is the same every week. These times are for my fitness class that I teach and special times with my son.
    • Congratulate myself on the wins: if I get to have some quality time with my son or some positive engagements with clients or colleagues, I celebrate that what I am doing is worthwhile.

I do my best to make this work, but there’s always room for improvement. It doesn’t help that I do have some workaholic tendencies (working as a business analyst AND fitness instructor AND a dedicated mum and wife AND wanting to start a personal development project to automate museum specimen label digitisation etc.). But, I love data and I love the chance to work with institutes like universities, museums, and archives to make sense of their complex data problems and inter-related system requirements.

What I am talking about is not new, and I am glad to say that Gaia Resources continues to evaluate our procedures to help our employees where we can. It is nice to see there is even a push from government for employers to be more supportive of flexible working arrangements https://www.afr.com/policy/health-and-education/not-taboo-to-ask-anymore-employers-sign-up-to-family-friendly-push-20210517-p57soi .

So, what are some of your tips and tricks to make flexible, remote work, WORK? Please share in the comments,  email me or start a conversation with us on one of our social media platforms –  Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Mieke

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