The pitfalls of flexible working and how to avoid them

The pitfalls of flexible working

The world is changing too fast to think you’ll be working in the same role for long and the notion of a career for life is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. One estimate suggests that 65% of children starting primary school today will end up working in jobs that currently don’t even exist. In addition to the changes affecting permanent employment, freelancing is on the increase as people opt for a more flexible working lifestyle and swap the morning commute for a desk at home or a local coffee shop.

On a day to day basis, those working in conventional 9 to 5 jobs are also experiencing a shift in working style as flexible working, part-time hours, working from home and hot-desking (hot-desking policies often driven by cutting overheads as flexible working and an increasing part-time workforce means less desk space is needed) are becoming increasingly common.

We no longer need to meet people face-to-face in real life to get work done. Technology is a massive enabler to remote working for full-time employees and freelancers, for example, there’s plenty of free video conferencing options to choose from as well as sites like Fiver springing up where freelancers can get paid their expertise from anywhere and to anywhere in the world.

There’s a ton of benefits of working at any time from anywhere to freelancers, business owners and employers, but like any new system or way of working there are realities that get overlooked. For example;

It can be lonely working from home. I know this from personal experience.  When I first went from working in an office to working at home it hit me. I really missed my colleagues. I missed being able to bounce ideas and sense check things with them. If you work from home you must be able to deal with being on your own for long periods of time and if you are an employer you have a duty of care to staff to make sure they can manage the isolation of working from home.

Stress levels are rising as flexible working means we don’t switch off from work. We constantly check our phones, answer our emails and update our social media. This constant ‘being on’ is not good for our physical or mental health.

Hot-desking increases germs and illness in the office. According to the reputable publication, The Sun Your desk could be harbouring 400 times more germs than a toilet seat”. Sensationalist perhaps, but the incidence of germs spread around the office is greater when you are hot-desking and using different computers than when you keep your germs to themselves at your own desk.  

Your employees might object. I’m an advocate of hot-desking to create the water-cooler moments that spark innovation and creativity. However, water cooler moments rely on people speaking to each other. When people resent being told to hot-desk they often withdraw and don’t interact with their new colleagues around them. If a hot-desking policy isn’t implemented with an understanding of the current culture and care isn’t taken to involve employees from the start of the process, you can end up with a culture clash that causes so much disruption and upset it can do more harm than good.

There are solutions

If you work from home schedule your day carefully to ensure you do have conversations with other people, build a support network so you do have people to bounce ideas with, for example, join a mastermind group or get a mentor.

Put systems in place to not check your phone at all hours of the day and night and turn off notifications outside of working hours.

If you work in an organisation get some cleaning cloths (or ask your employer to provide them) for the keyboard and desk to stop the spread of germs.

If you are implementing a hot-desking or working from home policy carefully consult with employees and consider the culture shift required to make it work before piling in.

This changing face of work is one of the reasons that I’ve up the Lucidity Network  – whether you work for yourself or in an organisation it’s a ready-made professional support network that combines a mix of face-to-face meet-ups, online toolkits and connections to an energizing community that accelerates your progress so that you get the results you want.

Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group  for clearer thinking and better results.  

How to quit your day job

About 18 months before I left a ‘proper job’ I asked myself, ‘If I’m going to leave employment to be a freelancer what would I need to be successful?’

I decided that the most important things were that people needed to know;

· Who I was

· What I did

· How I could help them

· I was trusted and credible.

I also knew that I needed to build a financial buffer so that I could survive for three months without earning a single penny. (I picked three months as long enough to test if my business could make money balanced with an achievable amount of money to squirrel away. It was uncomfortable but if I had gone for a longer time frame I’d still be commuting in and out of an office every day)

In order to work my way through the above list I started to put myself forward to speak at conferences. Terrifying.

I started to blog. Terrifying — but in a different way.

I started to side-hustle by doing odd bits of training and consultancy before and after work or taking holidays to do it and asking for testimonials and recommendations.

It was exhausting. But it paid off.

After about a year people wanted me to work on larger projects with them, but I couldn’t because I still had a full-time job. In order to really seize the opportunities that I had created I needed to leave the day job.

I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff looking down into the sea below. My potential clients were all in lifeboats, shouting and waving, ‘jump, we’ll catch you’ But I had to jump in order to be caught.

I procrastinated. Listened to friends and family who mostly thought it was too risky. Got the fear. Talked myself out of it. Felt ashamed for not being brave enough. Talked myself back into it. I asked myself ‘What was the worst that could happen?’ The worst that could happen was that it didn’t work and I could get another job.

Then in February 2012 I was invited to speak at a conference on the Gold Coast in Australia.

That was one almighty nudge. It doesn’t get better than that. I decided to hand in my notice and get myself to Australia.

I remember the day. 5 October 2011.

I was really anxious about quitting. It was the only day my manager was in the office so I had to do it that day. I think it was the normal anxiety of leaving a job, feeling that you are letting the remaining employees down in some way, compounded with the inner critic that tells you that its ludicrous that you could do something different and that it would never work anyway (we all have that voice — my learning is that the people who get stuff done are the ones that can better manage that voice).

On 5 October 2011 I woke up and turned on my TV. The main news story was that Steve Jobs had died. I turned on my Macbook and the screen saver was Jobs face. I looked at my Twitter stream and it was mostly about Steve Jobs’ death.

I had a little cry.

I know this sounds ridiculous, but for me it felt like a sign. I thought about what Steve Jobs would have done. He’d have quit (he’d have probably quit ages ago). It helped me turn the inner critic down voice and I went into work and handed in my notice.

I’m not suggesting that you wait for an inspirational icon to die to make the leap, but it’s an important part of my story.

You can listen to more of my story at the Good Leaders podcast.

I’ve now been a freelancer and building my own business for five years. I’m proud to be unemployable in a conventional sense. I love what I do. Ironically as far as my business is concerned, the worst thing that could happen now would be to get another conventional day job.

You will have your own story and there is by no means one right way to embark on a freelance lifestyle. But if you are considering it (and even if you are not) ask yourself the question, If I want to be <insert where you want to be> in 18 months time, what do I need to do to get there?

And then start doing it. Simple — but don’t think for a moment that it’s at all easy.

I get asked so often for advice on becoming a freelancer or how to thrive as one that I’ve turned it into a day course. The next one is on 7 March in London. More information here. Or if you fancy at chat drop me a line at lucy@lucidity.org.uk.

Calling Sunday syndrome sufferers

Sunday syndrome; That sinking feeling at about 5pm on a Sunday when you realise that you have to go to work the next day.

Rationally you know that it’s still 5pm on Sunday and you have hours of weekend left. Objectively you know that no matter what lies waiting for you at the office on Monday morning. IT’S STILL SUNDAY yet you can’t shake of the uneasy feeling of dread.

Why do we get this?

I remember getting Sunday syndrome when I was at school because we had double maths on a Monday morning. I wasn’t very good at maths and I was scared of my teacher.

I thought Sunday syndrome was a hangover from double maths Monday dread, but over the years I’ve realised that most people have experienced Sunday syndrome.

It strikes me as a bad thing, most of us spend 40 or more hours a week at work and the thought of going back after a couple of days off should not be so awful.

That said now I work for myself I don’t get Sunday syndrome - I’m not sure if that’s because I put in some hours most days - or I’ve found something I really love so it doesn’t feel so much like work.

If you are seeking a release from Sunday syndrome and you think working for yourself might be the solution ,  why not check out our new weekend retreat in partnership with Alan Clayton Associates. It’s designed for established freelancers or those thinking of making the leap. Free-ranging out on your own from Friday 4 – Sunday 6 November. Sign up and more details here.