How about we get more parents back in the workforce?
You know, so we can do things like allow primary carers (who are often mothers) to maintain their professional worth. Help struggling families generate a higher income. Address the gender imbalance in organisations. Heck, maybe even stimulate the economy!
All that good stuff that we often bite our nails and rock back and forth about.
“How are we going to do it?” I hear you ask.
Well, how about we allow working parents to work shorter days? You know, match the working day to school day hours - 9am to 3pm.
“What?” I hear you gasp. “9am to 3pm? That’ll never work.”
Well, here’s the thing. That’s exactly how I have worked for the past five years.
You see. I’m one of those women who insist on trying to have it all. Stamping one foot firmly with my family, the other also firmly with my career.
And I ‘aint budging…because it works: for me, for my kids, and for my clients.
Working 9am to 3pm has been the best thing I have ever done.
When I returned to work full-time, seven months after the arrival of my first-born, it was the hardest time of my life. Those long days away from my son made me miserable. My misery compounded by lengthy meetings, where it felt like it took a lifetime to make a decision.
Quit wasting time people. I have a baby to get home to…
In the end it became too much. Fed up with the prospect of more time away from my kids, when my second-born arrived I handed in my notice and set up my own shop.
My ‘shop’ is a communications business. I work with organisations to develop communications campaigns for employees, the media and the public. And I do this on an hourly basis between the hours of 9 to 3pm.
Because it can be done.
It can be done because I have a deadline to meet: school pick-up. There is no time to waste, no navels to gaze, I need to get on with the job.
It can be done because I am spurred on to prove my worth to my clients, giving them the most productively rich hours possible, in return for their flexibility.
It can be done because I mostly work from home, reclaiming time wasted sitting on a bus in peak hour traffic.
“But what happens if things happen after 3pm. You know, busy-and-important things?” I hear you ask.
So here’s another thing. During my past five years working 9 to 3pm, very rarely have ‘busy and important things’ popped up after 3pm.
If they do - and they are genuinely urgent - well, I work around it. I’ve been known to write a media statement while stirring a pot of Bolognese and reciting five times tables.
If they do - and they are not genuinely urgent - I politely ask if we could deal with it in the morning.
I think it’s time we shifted our thinking about the concept of productivity, not only for the sake of working parents and the companies that employ them, but also for the sake of our children.
Productivity is not about how long employees sit at their desks in cubicles.
Productivity is about pace, commitment, adaptability and a genuine output.
And parenthood is a fabulous training ground for any of these traits.
For me working 9am to 3pm has definitely been a way to make a living.
And I reckon it could be for so many more.