Last year, I made the difficult and scary decision to leave a well-paid, steady job to step into the unknown. After 10 years at the same company, I felt it was time to step outside my comfort zone and embark on the next stage of my career.
However, rather than wait until I had a new position lined up, I chose instead to take a mini-career break. I have two young children and felt that my life had become a hamster wheel of very early (5AM) starts, commutes to London, frantic working in compressed hours at the office, then racing back home to collect the kids from whatever activity they had been booked into.
I always felt racked with guilt. I wasn’t in the office five days per week like my colleagues and I wasn’t being a great mum to my kids, who got the brunt of my stress. There had to be a different way.
After a lot of thought, I left my job of 10 years, and all its benefits, to spend the summer with the family. It was great. I really enjoyed reconnecting with the children and having a summer free of holiday clubs and early starts. By September, though, I was getting itchy feet and felt the pull of work (and of course an income!) getting ever stronger.
I took to trawling through job sites in search of flexible senior-level roles. It soon became apparent that this was not going to be so easy. It is really depressing that in 2018, the majority of jobs advertised at senior level are full-time roles. There is very rarely any mention of flexible hours or job-sharing. Recruiters usually state that they don’t discriminate based on gender, race, disability, and so on, which of course is quite right; however, in many ways, they do discriminate against parents or indeed anyone who wants or needs flexible working hours.
I decided to take matters into my own hands. I posted on LinkedIn and Facebook that I was looking for a new role that offered flexible working hours, and asked if anyone could recommend something, to get in touch. I was delighted that several friends and LinkedIn connections contacted me to discuss what I was looking for or to arrange a chat to explore opportunities.
One of these connections was Richard Rodger, CEO at voxgig. He said he was starting a new business in the events industry and was looking for someone to head up business development. We had a number of conversations and eventually I decided that I liked what I heard. Richard’s passion and belief in his new business were so strong, I just had to get involved!
He also wanted to run the business in a different way. His goal was to run a successful startup with a team of remote working staff, many on flexible part-time hours rather than the usual 24/7 ‘work yourself into the ground’ model.
So here I am, into month two of my new role as Head of Business Development at voxgig. I work 20 hours per week on a flexible basis from home. Likewise our team members; they are all working remotely and mostly from home. We have weekly meetings using Webex, Hangouts, Skype and Google Docs, plus an online customer relationship management (CRM) tool and a Slack channel for internal team communications.
It’s going well so far. I’m really enjoying being given so much autonomy and freedom to try out new ideas to create business. I’m finding that I’m extremely productive in work mode. At the same time, I am a lot less stressed, so I can be a proper mum and partner outside of work hours.
I’m delighted to be part of something new and special. So many of my friends, especially those who are mums, are either leaving their careers or thinking about changing career – not because they don’t like their job but because their company won’t consider flexible approaches to working.
Companies are losing many highly skilled workers who are turning their backs on their careers for the sake of their families. And it all boils down to archaic working practices.
There is a huge skills gap in many sectors (especially in tech, where there are thousands of unfilled roles). With Brexit looming, we should be doing all we can to keep our talented workforce in fulfilling careers, not forcing them to leave due to inflexibility. This is why voxgig is supporting great initiatives like the Tech Talent Charter. We will also be doing our best to recruit employees based on their skills, not on their ability to work five days per week, eight hours a day.
I’ll keep you updated as we continue on our journey.
Natalie Gray is Head of Business Development at voxgig.