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Mel McGee?s blog: Family friendly policies boost SME growth and keep employees productive

Cover of  by Mel McGee

?Is Your Business Family Friendly? How Employers Can Offer Careers That Fit With Family Life, Improve Results and Boost Company Growth?

Let?s face it in the UK today, whether you are an employer, employee, self-employed or unemployed, the focus is on cuts, cutting back, cutting out. So a good place for me to start is with: elimination.

Eliminate stress, unproductivity, disloyalty, guilt, time wasting?how? If you are an employer by offering flexible working arrangements and if you are an employee by negotiating a flexible working arrangement.

We all know that combining a full-time career with the responsibility of family demands an extraordinary amount of time and energy. We also know that many women value a career, especially one they have studied, trained and qualified for, and want to continue doing work they find stimulating and rewarding when they become a mum. So we have conflicting values and possibly a stressed, exhausted and frustrated mum?if she?s not enjoying some of the benefits of flexible working.

It can be surprising, shocking even, to experience the sheer force of feelings when it comes to leaving your baby for long hours to pursue a career and your natural nurturing instincts are screaming at you to ?Be There??but you convince yourself that you ?have to? work and with no time left to focus on a solution to your crazy work/life schedule you resign yourself to ?putting up with it? or make the decision to stay at home and maybe look for some ?flexible work? later.

A quick Google search shows that in Briain this month there were 165,000 searches for ?work from home? and 2,240,000 global searches. It?s just one way to prove the demand out there for flexible work but what about the employers? What?s in it for them?

Put simply, a business needs to make money and flexible working arrangements can contribute by either cutting costs, increasing revenue or both?that will get your bosses attention! Surely, the best employees are those who turn up for work refreshed and ready for action, those who just want to get on with their job, those who enjoy their work, those who you can rely on and those who get results?

By being flexible as an employer, giving employees more empowerment about how they work can provide a positive working environment free of resentment and guilt. Here are some suggestions for creating career opportunities that are supportive to parents:

For employers

1. Offer flexible hours?do you really need all your staff in the workplace at set hours to get the job done? Does it really matter if work is done from home instead of the office? Think about what you could save if you didn?t have all your staff in every day. Focus on the results you want, as long as you are getting those results could being more flexible actually be better for business?

2. Go virtual?Do you really need everyone in for meetings? Think about all that travel time and potential for delays. Could you have a virtual meeting with your staff and encourage them to work as a virtual team more allowing them to be not just at home but anywhere? Web based meeting services like are a great solution as is using Skype for conference calls.

3. Eliminate guilt?encourage a guilt free environment at your workplace for parents. The consequences for parents consistently not being on time for picking up at the end of the day, missing out on important events in their children?s lives and having to leave a sick child at home just add more stress, which can affect work performance. Have a mutual respect for each other?s position and allow your employees to be a responsible and caring parent without the guilt.

For employees

1. Ask yourself ?How????How can I continue my career and work flexible hours?? ?How can I work from home???when you have figured out what your ideal working week looks like you can then start negotiating with your employer. You may want to start out with replacing one or two days at work with working from home and agree to a trial run with your boss to smooth the process.

2. Being busy is not the same as being productive?be brutally honest with yourself and work out how much time you spend during your working day on unproductive activities e.g. commuting, personal chit chat, popping out on errands not to mention the distractions and interruptions. We can spend all day every day being ?busy?. Your boss wants productivity so you need to convince them that you can work from wherever and whenever but the work will always get done.

3. Practice first?taking control of your career like this is liberating but can feel uncomfortable too. Boost your confidence in your ability to pull off the flexible working you want by putting yourself through a trial run. You boss needs to trust that you will get on with the job without supervision so create an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to do an outstanding job from home giving you the proof you?ll need in negotiations. Test your discipline by working from a coffee shop for a few hours or another location that will ensure you can ignore distractions.

All of the strategies above can lead to a flexible working arrangement that suits both the employer and employee and just because things might not have been done that way in your company yet, it doesn?t mean that it can?t be done or that there might just be a better way?a flexible way.

?It ain?t what you do?it?s the way that you do it?and that?s what gets results?

Mel McGee, is the founder of Supermummy, author of Millionaire Mumpreneurs (published by Harriman House) and expert speaker on homeworking for mums. She leads a business coaching programme and offers a free video course and tips from her website

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