Joy Redmond, Head of Research at Sonru, shares her own experience and weighs in on the importance of not overlooking flexible workers when it comes to implementing a truly diverse and inclusive policy.
I’m a part-time freelance remote worker that occasionally appears on site. There are a couple of adjectives in that short sentence that are almost dirty words in the recruitment vocabulary. I haven’t always worked like this. I, like most of you, have moved from one full-time job to the next because the amount of work needed to get from zero awareness to national or global brand necessitated working full time. Then, life got in the way – my son was diagnosed with ASD and had delayed language that called for a range of interventions – weekly speech and occupational therapy appointments, daily applied behavioural analysis and a suite of home programmes in between. So, I had to pull back and rethink.
Diversity has parents
Diversity is often thought of purely in terms of race, gender, ethnicity and or [dis]ability but lack of flexibility is a known inhibitor to certain minorities, particularly parents and carers. I’m lucky because Sonru could still see the value I could bring outside the parameters of a full-time on-site role that I’d originally been hired to do. For me, working part-time and/or remotely is optimal in terms of my own productivity so I contract part-time with Sonru, have time for other freelance work and a few side hustles, and have time for myself because sometimes you just need a walk on the beach. To be honest, I enjoy the variety. In the autism community, we call these shifts ‘sensory breaks’, but I think it’s more a corporate strain of ADHD. Anyway, too often candidates are removed from consideration if the focus is on time and place rather than deliverables. I always say that passion is not pro-rata so the trick is to find companies and clients that don’t reduce your worth to a clocking-in machine.
Me Time isn’t only for Me
I finished an online degree in UX Design and Technology last year and I shared my learnings within my fellow marketing buddies here so much so that they overtook me and are now producing all their own graphics. The art writing course I’ve just finished is helping with my messaging and written communications and sure there is no harm in revisiting a fairly obscure language I learned but didn’t master in college. When I worked full-time with small children, downtime was spent doing household stuff or leisure, the idea of further learning was laughable. Now, with a bit more distance and being off the treadmill, I can see that what I do in my free time can help my work. I can also move around my days to get out and about to conferences and events, a luxury unavailable to many full-timers but so important in terms of knowledge acquisition and inspiration. I refueled recently at Dublin Tech Summit and will be heading to InspireFest this week.
The ten thousand words behind this picture
This featured image is one of my favourite family photos. It’s a photo of my two sons after swim club training. Who doesn’t have dozens or even hundreds of photos of siblings going, doing and/or coming home from sport? This photo is the one and only time my sons trained together. What you can’t see in the photo is the two years of weekly lessons that our Autism group co-funded to rent out the pool and hire six teachers for the six learners. It doesn’t show another five years of 1-2-1 lessons in a private hotel pool or the one year the swim club gave him his own lane during the Masters’ training. What we see is my eldest son’s final night in swim club [during his leaving cert before heading off to Uni] and his little brother trying his hand at sharing a lane with his peers. Two years on and he’s still sharing the lane. This photo would never have been taken if I’d been working full-time and I wouldn’t trade it or that possible career for anything.
Before and as a parent, I’ve done it all – full time at work, full time at home, remote work, part-time work, unemployed, underemployed, deployed and there is no magic formula or answer – it’s a bit like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer is 42 but what is the question? You have to find the groove that fits you. I definitely work at least 40 hours per week but I can guarantee those hours are not shoehorned between 9-5 on weekdays. In fact, I could well be at the beach while you’re reading this and that to me is quite beautiful. I’ll end with my own version of Seneca’s famous quote: “The important thing isn’t how long you work, but how well you work,” and recommend you check out Seneca’s contemporary – Tim Ferriss and read more about his 4-Hour Workweek.