I can only courtesy and send invisible gold medals to all the mums and/or dads out there, that can and do come back to work full time after maternity/paternity leave, adoption leave or anything else that includes taking a long period of time of work to concentrate on your family or yourself.
My experience, while compared to others’ might seem quite basic, has been a very unexpected and life changing for me.
Little did I knew, back in 2017, how my personal and work life will take deep dive into unseen prospects so immanently and dramatically but looking back at it now – I have gained 5 years of incredible and versatile experiences, grown as a person, woman, wife, colleague, but most especially as a mum.
Looking back at 2017 – with the expected arrival of my baby boy at the far end of October that year, I was continuing to work my 9 to 5, Monday to Friday – getting through the heat of the summer, with a belly growing not by days, but what seemed like hours. Continuing to do the job I love the most and working in an incredibly supportive environment, I could not have been happier at the time. Yet, unexpectedly, my baby decided to arrive more than 10 weeks early, which meant I had to start my maternity leave before the summer had ended.
A year flew by and – after countless time spent in hospitals with a premature baby and many sleepless nights, a million special first’s, lessons and an infinite amount of love – I was ready to think about work again.
But once again life threw one of its inevitable curveballs; rather than a “back to work” conversation with my manager, we instead had a “the company is closing its business in the UK and your role has been made redundant” conversation.
It was an unfortunate turn of events, that no-doubt caused a lot of stress. But it also opened a lot of new doors for me and gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I could have my cake and eat it. Was there the potential that a new job/company would let me continue to be fully involved in family life, raising my precious baby while continuing to pursue my career, all at the same time?
Much job-hunting and several applications for part-time positions later, I landed in an interview with an incredibly supportive human and father, who tought me a valuable lesson about work and family – employees given the right flexibility to fulfil their personal life will always achieve their work goals. In other words, you get what you give and vice versa. With both me and my employers’ boxes successfully ticked, I started my first ever part-time position within the next few days. For me it was another dream come true. The office was five minutes away from home, working from 9am to 3pm with an hour’s lunch, which meant I could go home to spend some time with my family while at the same time managing multimillion orders across EU and Far East. I was able to continue developing my skills within business, sales and finances with the comfort of knowing my child was in easy reach should they need me, or I them. I was truly happy, and life felt all back to normal.
Moving forward to the back end of 2020 – in the middle of a worldwide pandemic – smaller businesses have started to feel the struggles and implications of national and global lockdown(s) and ours was not an exception. With my boy turning 3 and starting nursery any day, I could not cope with the thought of another potential redundancy creeping my way, so I had to start looking for another place of work that would tick all the boxes and fill me with that all important sense of security. I began my search this time by reaching out to a few of my fellow colleagues from previous workplaces. One of them knew that there was an opening position at Anglian Water that, despite being a fixed term 12-month contract, could potentially work with and around my needs. The thought of working for Anglian Water had never even crossed my mind, as back then I believed that I surely don’t have what it takes to work for such a large and successful business. Nevertheless, I could never forgive myself for not giving it a go! I’m sure you can guess the outcome.
October 2020 I officially started my second part-time position at Anglian Water, with all the flexibility of my previous job, but this time with an upgrade of working from home, too! I found it heart-warming that I was there to cover a lady who went on maternity leave herself, to raise her beautiful baby boy. Within that year I gained a broader understanding of how just how many ways Anglian Water strives to support its employees – from flexible working to continuous development opportunities across the business and its Alliances. By gradually building my network of people and gaining experience, I understood that it is the company I see my future with, and Project Management is where I want to be. Therefore, when my contract was approaching it’s end and my not-so-little-anymore boy was about to start pre-school, I decided to apply for a full-time, permanent job.
It’s been nearly 2 years at Anglian Water and I have recently been promoted to Subject Matter Expert, working on multimillions worth of Water Recycling projects, surrounded by the most supportive team I could ever ask for. I continue to work through my personal development plan to become a Project Manager, being mentored and coached by the most influential and experienced leaders within business. At the same time, I have the flexibility to take care of my family through hybrid office and home working.
I feel at peace, knowing that I didn’t need to miss the important moments of my boy’s life, and I was there for all his ‘firsts’ while at the same time I continued to gradually build my personal career, which is just as important to me. With all the support that I get from my employer I am confident I can do it all – have a family, raise a child, build a career.
Having experienced the benefits and challenges of part time jobs myself, I feel passionate about flexible working, and will be sharing my personal perspectives on it with you in this short blog.
I first started working part time in my previous organisation after I returned from maternity leave in 2012. My children are 14 months apart and when they were preschool age, I worked 3 days a week. Once both were at school, I increased my days to 4 days per week.
When I joined Anglian Water 18 months ago, I accepted the role first and foremost because it was an exciting role, working for an organisation with a purpose I believed in. Equally important to me was the ability to continue to work part time. It would have been a deal breaker if part time working was not an option but luckily my manager and I were able to discuss this early in the process and I felt very supported.
For me, working part time means that every Friday I get to take my children to school, pick them up and then fit in a couple of their after-school activities. For the rest of the week, they are with a childminder, so I massively appreciate the valuable time I get to spend with them every Friday, thanks to the flexibility of Anglian Water and my role. It also means that I have been able to care for my Mum – who suffers from Multiple sclerosis, and recently went through breast cancer treatment – something that was vital to me. The time I get to spend with her on my Friday’s is precious, and it brings me comfort throughout the week knowing I will get to be with her for an extended period of time each Friday.
I’ve noticed that I’m actually more productive working part time. I often reach decisions or get a breakthrough in thinking when I am walking the dog on a Friday and not actively working on a problem because it gives me more head space and I feel less exhausted. Working four days also encourages me to not only take care of those around me more, but also to take care of myself. I make sure I take an exercise class each Friday, which I struggle to fit in the rest of the week with family and work demands. Working four days means I can fit all the above into my weeks, and more, while still maintaining a leadership role to a high standard – something that is really important to me after working so hard at my career.
While there are many benefits to flexible working, I also thought it worth sharing some challenges, aside from the financial impact. The main challenge for me is maintaining my boundaries – I’ve never found it easy to say no and people often schedule meetings on my day off which means I have to say no regularly. This doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes take calls from my team or complete something I haven’t got around to doing during the week; but I’m happy to do this, since I’m also given the chance to attend the odd school play in normal working hours or leave early to get to parents evening occasionally. It’s about genuine flexible working and that works both ways.
In my experience I rarely see roles advertised as part time, so the onus is often on the candidate to bring the subject up in an interview. I believe all roles should be advertised with an invitation to discuss flexible working arrangements so that candidates feel more comfortable to have the conversation and organisations attract more diversity.
When my children are grown, I still plan to work part time. I imagine, like many people my age and younger, I may be working longer than traditional retirement age and so this way of working feels like it’s the best balance for me to stay healthy, productive, and happy for many years to come.
As a Recruitment Co-Ordinator (RC), I’m often the first port of contact for candidates. I book interviews and act as a guide to candidates throughout the interview and hiring process, meaning any queries about interviews – including time and date changes or general advice – are directed to me and my team.
Having always worked in people-orientated roles throughout my education and career, I was so happy to have landed this role, and was incredibly grateful to be given the chance to work it on a part-time basis while still studying my for my master’s degree in HR. Working Monday through to Wednesday has really allowed me to focus my time, knowing this is my time to work. It has allowed me to kickstart – and continue progressing – my career without having to give up my studies. It also means I can focus Thursday through to Sunday on writing my dissertation, without having to worry about work. Working a full-time job whilst also juggling the demands of a master’s degree would be almost impossible, so I’m super grateful to have the flexibility that my role in Anglian Water allows.
I had heard amazing things about Anglian Water on Indeed and Glassdoor so when I first saw the role, I had to apply. The application process was smooth sailing and I was made to feel at ease throughout it. I felt I had the skills for the job and knew that I was an ideal candidate based off these, as the application laid out what skills the role required clearly and concisely.
I was prepared to go into interviews open-minded, willing to sacrifice more hours of my time if needs be to make it work and be able to start my career. However, when I had my interview we discussed the hours, and I was asked about my preferences. I remember being shocked, the interviewers were so understanding, and genuinely acknowledged that I was still doing a degree and the time-demands of this. I was asked what days I wanted to work with Wednesday being an overlapping day with me and another candidate. I started in June 2022.
The flexibility didn’t end at which days I worked – I also got the choice to start my day a little earlier and finish it earlier too. The option to start my day at 8am and end at 4am was appealing to me, being an early riser and I feel privileged to have this choice as it allows me further flexibility when it came to balancing my work and social life as well as my education. Having now finished my dissertation, I am still enjoying part-time work, and the time it gives me to catch-up with family and friend time that I missed out on during my master’s. I plan to start work on a full-time basis soon.
At first, I was a little apprehensive as I wanted to make connections and bond with my team and I thought being a part-time worker may impact this, my shorter hours making me less of a team member – especially with working on a hybrid basis too. Thankfully, it’s not like that at all. Wednesdays are my favourite day of the work week, as it’s when all of my team come into the office. We have our team meetings and I hand over what I’ve been working on that week to my colleagues. On days that I’m the only RC in office, I still know the rest of the team are there to help – there’s no noticeable sense of hierarchy and no job is too small for anyone of us, which is really nice.
If you are thinking of working part-time but you’re worrying it will have social implications at work, then just give it a chance, you might be surprised!
I started working for Anglian water in 2010 and in 2013 I fell pregnant. I worked as a Service Monitoring Technician (what it was known as back then) and the job worked on annualised hours, with designated shifts between 6.30am and 11pm. I worked all days of the year, Christmas day included. I was nervous not only to become a mum but also knowing my life and potentially my job would change.
Leo came along in July 2014. I enjoyed the first six months but then dread came over as the time to return to work crept closer – I was worried about how balancing family life and my job would work, as my partners job was not flexible. As it turns out, my fears weren’t warranted at all; I gave my line manager some ideal shift patterns that would work for me and hoped they could work for the business too. We agreed on one day shift (starting later than the usual 6.30am start) and 1 late shift (still working until 10.30pm) per week and every Saturday. I was over the moon.
In 2016 I then fell pregnant again and Lexi came along August 2017. When I started to think about returning, I was conscious I was going to miss out on watching my children grow up and not be able to spend quality time with my whole family, as I worked Saturdays and my partner worked Monday to Friday. Leo was already three, (Where had the time gone?) but I also didn’t want to give up work because I really loved my job. After talking to my manager, we settled on 15 hours a week, comprising of three weekday shifts 9.30-2.30. This helped cover lunch breaks for my colleagues, and I could work on the parts of the job that were most important on the day.
There were some struggles – I wasn’t doing the everyday parts of the job that I was used to doing and I felt myself struggling to adapt to the reduced hours – but I also loved the extra time I had to spend with my children. I ploughed on until a great development opportunity came up, to become the Subject Matter Expert for a project our team was going to be working on.
I had worked in the same team now for eight years and felt I was up for the challenge. I knew the job inside out and knew I would be good at the job and was able to offer more of my time to the project if needed. It was a success. My work-life balance was great, and I was happy.. In 2021 I made the plunge and applied for another role within the business; both my children were now in primary school, so it felt like the right time to increase my hours and explore the wider business. With school run times in mind I decided on a max of 30 hours a week, which is what I am currently doing, and I am loving my work/homelife balance. Some weeks can be harder than others, but I am grateful for all the opportunities Anglian Water has given me through the years. I am very lucky to be able to work from home when and if my children needed, without) affecting the business. I am now in another role with the same team and feel so happy with the choices I made when my children were so little. Anglian Water really helped me in my time of need, to create a flexible working situation that has been so helpful to me and my family.
My role as a Lean Consultant means that I work across different business units and functions in Anglian Water, helping to deploy lean techniques to improve the way processes are carried out and establish best practice across the business. I also help others in the change community with their personal and professional development, often being called upon by different business leaders to help in workshops and for general guidance on next steps as far as their individual projects are concerned. I’ve been with Anglian Water since August 2021, employed on a part-time basis working three days each week.
The role wasn’t advertised as part-time but when I met the hiring manager for the first time, we discussed what she needed and that I didn’t want to work five days a week, so agreed on three days a week. This allows great flexibility, I am happy knowing I can do other things on the days that I don’t work, but it also gives Anglian Water flexibility as they know I’m also willing to work hours outside my usual bracket should they need me too. For example, if a Monday (a day I don’t usually work) is the best day for a workshop for a particular group of people, I’ll happily work on a Monday, and take a different day off that week. Normally I just work Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday full time then, if necessary, I can work on Mondays and Fridays.
I started working part-time because last April, I was made redundant from my previous job. I had been working in London for 15 years, commuting a lot of the time and spending a lot of time travelling around Europe. Being made redundant encouraged me to take stock of what matters to me most and determine whether I wanted to simply take a step back from work, stop working completely or even if I wanted to continue working, but follow a new career path.
Having made myself available again on LinkedIn, there were several jobs available to me, but the company that appealed to me most was Anglian Water for a number of reasons. It was local – a nice, easy commute from my home – but I’d also had a personal recommendation from a previous Anglian Water employee, who put me in touch with the company. I’ve been very happy and it’s met all my expectations and I’ve loved the opportunity to help people develop and to make a difference within the organization.
To anyone considering working part-time I would say it has to work for you as there is a financial component to consider. To me, it’s been extremely worth it, as working a three or a four-day week just gives you more time to appreciate other things in life. I now have a number of voluntary opportunities that I do on Mondays and Fridays with meaningful activities that make me happy. I think it also depends on the stage you’re at in your career; I’m towards the back end of my career and did consider retiring fully. In my previous company, I worked internationally right across Europe and there are a number of countries where, as you approach retirement age, they automatically put you on to reduced hours so you get a phased stepping back. I can enjoy my home life, but know that I am still adding value to the workplace. I work autonomously, which is great and adds to the flexibility. I think I’m making a difference because people keep asking me back to come and help them do more ‘stuff’ so I can put my hand on my heart and say I’m probably enjoying this job more than I’ve enjoyed many jobs the right opportunity at the right time.