Going back to work after Christmas and new year can be a shock to the system for many. Lazy days spent watching films, eating peanuts and polishing off the Baileys are suddenly replaced by alarm clocks, smart clothes and email inbox mountains.
However, going back to work after having a baby can be an even bigger shock for mums. I had my first child in February 2007. At the time I fell pregnant, I was working for a conventional law firm, covering two offices, travelling up to one-and-a-half hours each way each day. During my maternity leave I was really concerned about how I could return to work and juggle looking after a baby with the demands of my job. So when I was offered a role with Woolley & Co, which has an extremely flexible approach, I knew that it would fit in perfectly my family life.
I had our second child in February 2012. This time around, I had no fear or worries about my work/life balance. There was never any doubt about returning to work, and I did so not too long before Christmas.
Many people do not have a choice whether to go back to work or not. Others are determined to go back as soon as possible, while another group are unsure they will go back at all before the children start school.
The reality is that in this day and age, mums wanting to return to work have a right to request flexible working. The employer then has to consider it – but does not automatically have to agree and can refuse on a number of grounds. You cannot then apply again for another 12 months.
There are still many negatives associated with flexible working. A 2011 survey showed 54 per cent of respondents though that asking for flexible working may negatively affect their career. A different poll, among 800 women solicitors in the UK last year, said they believed half of women solicitors who took up flexible working were viewed as being less serious about their careers.
However, if an organisation is serious about attracting the right calibre of employee, flexible working should be ingrained in its culture.
Returning to work was both exciting and daunting at the same time as it meant using the professional side of my brain and having adult interaction, but it also meant trying to juggle everything! However, working with Woolley & Co made it very easy for me to ease myself back to work. The business model is built around partner-level family law specialists working from their own offices but with the back-up of 20 other colleagues and central services, like marketing and admin support. This has enabled me personally to strike the right work/life balance. I can:
- Tailor my workload to my available hours
- Choose when and where work is completed, of course working around the needs of clients and opening hours of other parties
- Employ help as and when needed to cope with higher workloads or times when I am not as available.
As any parent will know, flexibility in your working life is essential as you need to respond not only to the daily demands of children but also unforeseen circumstances. So as things stand, having had the Christmas break, flexible working is working for me. In fact the only downside is a lack of face-to-face interaction you get in a busier office – but then I always have the little one to talk to!
Family law solicitor, Bournemouth