Starting a new job on flexible working after 22 years of working full time was going to be a big adjustment, especially after my maternity leave.

I was offered a job with Bays, an organisation which was championing flexible working as a concept by ensuring that flexible working works for its employees.

Flexible working seemed like the best way forward for me to get back into work after maternity leave, whilst also being able to be the full-time mum I wanted to be. However, I will admit I had my reservations how would I achieve what I needed to in the part time hours agreed; would it be hard to differentiate the line between home and work, and would it really work working from home and managing childcare at home all at the same time?

Nearly 5 months in I can confirm that it is working better than I could have ever imagined.

But what did I need to do to ensure I could be an effective employee, whilst keeping a good work-life balance. As ever I made a list, it’s the only way I can get tasks done!

What was on that list?

Identify a dedicated workspace – Separate from where we eat, relax and sleep. This is to ensure I can transition into work mode as soon as I enter that space but can also walk away and not be in work mode for the rest of the day. Ideally with a door so that you can shut away the distractions such as house chores and remain focused on work.

Consider my daily commute and breaks – My commute to work is now not spent in a car fighting traffic but putting baby in the pram and walking the dogs to the Loch and back before the work begins. This sets me up for the day and allows me to switch into work mode as I return to the house. Some days this doesn’t always go to plan, and it might be a walk after morning catch up calls which then provides a natural break away from the desk to reset before returning to the next item on the to do list. To prevent cabin fever, I aim to have lunch away from the screen and if the sun is shining then I step outside.

Communication is key – It’s an absolute essential for working from home because I don’t have those important face to face moments with colleagues that you get from being in an office. The first step was to build a rapport and understanding of individual work patterns; those who work full-time/ part-time/ condensed hours around school pickups, etc. Then regular catch-ups via video calls so that you are in the loop and aware of what is going on.  It is so easy to be disconnected with your line manager or the rest of the team when you don’t see each other and in my case are over 450 miles away from the office. Clients and contacts are also aware of my working patterns so that I can remain professional and not look elusive when they don’t get an immediate response on the same day.

Planning and scheduling my workload – The company uses various organisational and communication tools including Google Calendar, Keep, Slack, amongst others. Google Calendar allows us to manage meetings, calls, out of office, annual leave, etc. giving a one stop shop to see people’s availability. Whilst Slack is a great tool that we use daily to stay connected when working remotely. Both were new platforms that I hadn’t worked with previously so familiarising myself with the platforms has allowed me to plan my week and daily tasks, making me more productive and efficient whilst working flexible and reduced hours.

And then finally when your baby needs a nappy change, and your ageing spaniel has knocked over its water bowl, your mother-in-law has just text, your Mum is Facetiming and the boss’ call is just 2 minutes away, and you’ve had 4 hours sleep just remember, pause, coffee and breathe.

By Verity Foster