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The power to flex

Rachael Moss of Covéa highlights how important flexibility and employer support have been when balancing her work and home life

Have you ever read an article and thought 'that's me'? I did recently. The article was entitled 'Double guilt for working mothers' and, as the title suggests, it relayed insight from a study that showed more working mothers than ever are trapped in an endless cycle of guilt: feeling they are bad mothers because they work and bad employees because they have a family.

Our desire to be all things to all people is greater than ever before - wanting to devote ourselves to our children and witness every milestone while also aspiring to have fulfilling and rewarding careers at the same time. So the question is: can we really have it all?

I've crammed a lot into the last few years with a promotion, new house, marriage, two children… but I'm sure that's no different to many reading this. I also have an elderly mother with ill health and hold power of attorney for my grandmother-in-law, now 94, so the demands on me to wear varying hats on a daily basis are endless. I believe I'm just a typical 30-something with responsibilities and commitments aside from my job, but how am I able to fulfil all these demands and hold down a rewarding and fulfilling career? For me, the key is flexibility - and I can't underestimate its importance in my life.

The key was finding a blueprint to achieve a work/life/baby balance that worked for me and my manager - one that meant I could be a good working mum, remain committed to the same deliverables, embrace opportunities and hold the same career aspirations I had pre-children. And the solution to this was greater flexibility.

Here's how it works for me and my manager:

  • Change in job role - I agreed to a change in job role on my return, which meant I no longer had line manager responsibility. As such, I didn't need to be in the office a certain number of hours or days as I had no direct reports who needed my support in the office. My new role is still within the same department, but I focus on projects and content management that can be planned for.
     
  • Decreased working hours - my manager agreed to a flexible working contract where I work 26 hours flexibly over four days, typically completing two longer days and two shorter days.
     
  • Trust and managing expectations - key to flexibility is trust; if I need to work from home, my manager supports me, as do the various other stakeholders who I work with. So long as I dial into meetings on time, deliver the same standard of work and meet my deadlines, it's not vital to be at my desk at all times.
     
  • Being flexible - If something crops up or there is an urgent deliverable, I will negotiate childcare and support the priority. It's important that I can support my companyin the same way they support me and my family.

All of these things probably seem completely obvious, logical and rational but for me, the more explicit I could be in what was achievable and what support I needed in my family life, the less stress or guilt I feel when I get up and leave the office at 2.30pm, or where I'm working from home but offline for a couple of hours.

Rachael Moss

Needless to say, loyalty does count for a lot - my husband and I have worked for Covéa Insurance for 30 years between us. They are fabulously flexible and understand the pitfalls we face as working parents. They also know that we'll work flat out and be as flexible as we can when the business needs us to be - even if that's on an evening or from home. But if one of us needs to get to the office late, leave early, take time off when one of our children is ill, book a chunk of annual leave in the summer holidays, or dash off in the middle of the day because one of our boys is sick, then that's ok too.

So, as for the article I referred to at the beginning, there may be feelings of guilt from time to time, there may be days where I drop the juggling balls and there may be days where I miss a milestone, but equally there will be many opportunities to feel fulfilled. Being a working mum, for me, gives me balance and it means I get the best of both worlds. My life doesn't t revolve around my children (don't get me wrong, I adore them) but I'm also independent of them too, so when they grow up and need me less and less, I won't be left feeling empty and lost as they lead their lives - I'll still have my fabulously flexible work life and the wonderful team I have around me there.

Rachael Moss is corporate communications lead at Covéa Insurance

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