Flexible working is still seen as a taboo when women return to their successful media careers after maternity leave. High-pressured roles filled with demanding clients, agencies and everything else that goes with a role in media do not necessarily match the needs of being a parent. This issue in media is a huge negative, however at Maximus they have taken this as an opportunity to secure notable talent and grow revenue. Maximus has always looked at business differently. As an independent media owner, they are naturally entrepreneurial and opportunistic.
Speaking to the Commercial Director, Ged Weston, it is clear to see where the inspiration for a more adaptable approach arose: ‘Having witnessed first- hand my wife having to switch jobs for more flexibility, I realised that there was a wealth of talent available that we could use for our benefit’.
This manifested itself in a completely unique, output driven approach, where employees are getting the best work/ life balance. Debbie Harrison and Liz Lloyd are both mums and employees of Maximus, and are benefiting from this enlightened perspective. They wanted to share their story with NABS to ensure the message is relayed across the media industry.
‘’I had started to think true flexibility was out of reach. I considered many options, from temping as a PA, to taking full time work again, but both left me feeling cold and like I would be unable to fulfil my potential either as an employee or as a mother’’ Debbie Harrison tells us as she prepares to head into the office at 2pm rather than the usual 9am after having had a productive morning making use of the super- fast broadband she gets at home.
The truth is that for all women looking to return to work after a year out, your confidence is likely to be low. It is very easy to believe that the job you desire doesn’t exist and that compromise on your expectations of what is achievable is the only route forward.
Debbie continues, ‘’When I spoke to Maximus it was different to the companies I had worked for previously. They were much smaller, but looking to grow. They were looking for someone who could deliver results, but didn’t mind how that was achieved. I quickly grasped the opportunity as the company already employed a mum who worked 2 days a week and was working successfully. Part time for Maximus meant accessing people with years of experience on flexible terms which benefitted both parties through salary and work/ life balance.”
Debbie, like many others who have been out of the workplace for a sustained period, struggled to find a role that would allow her to balance an overwhelming desire to return to work with the continued desire to have enough time with her young daughter. And it’s not unusual, many companies fail to retain ability, or more importantly recognise the opportunity of working mothers, without trying to push them into full time because of more traditional business values. Companies are still unfortunately suffering by letting talented people that require such flexibility walk right past them.
Debbie agreed to work 3 days a week with 3 days a fortnight in London and the rest of the days made up at home. It offers a perfect mix of time in London for meetings and to check in with the team, and time at home without the fear of delayed trains making her late for nursery pick- ups.
The dial has moved, there is now a fundamental efficiency and perception change that is gathering a pace and companies need to respond fast or face being left behind. Understanding that now you don’t have to be sat in an office from 9-5pm to do a job well. Moreover, this creates a positive outside perception of the business – flexible working impresses clients – It comes across as forward thinking and smart.
Another benefit is a company’s ability to look after its people. Within a week of starting, Debbie’s daughter who had joined nursery 2 months before, picked up a terrible virus which meant her dropping everything to look after her, but Debbie felt supported from the get go; ‘’Maximus were amazing in this difficult period. I am happy to say she made a full recovery, but knowing that I could make up time when she slept and that I had the full support of my company to deliver my work over the next fortnight in any way I saw fit, rather than rushing back to the office was worth its weight in gold’’
This sounds out a resounding message of trust and empowerment. Ged Weston’s view is ‘It will not work if you don’t trust the person. Flexible working is about knowing that you must give away the control you would normally have, but that you will get more in return. It’s not for everyone, but with the right group, it motivates and galvanises respect and mutual appreciation. So many companies are still struggling to make it easy for that important return to work after maternity or time away, and in doing so are losing out themselves.’’
Liz Lloyd who is also employed by Maximus tells us ‘’If I rewind the clock back to about a year ago, I was adamant I would never return to work in the media industry. I’d gone off on maternity leave before the birth of my second son with less than a week until he was born, a calm before a very unexpected, scary storm. He was born with sepsis and pneumonia, and had it not been for one particular midwife and the amazing care at our wonderful hospitals, the outcome could have been very different.
As the year nudged on, work crept into my mind more and more. I just couldn’t imagine getting back into the world of work after everything I had been through, how would I be able to juggle the needs of the business with my boys?
However, the encouragement of family, Maximus and my lovely colleagues both old and new was overwhelming and with it I forged a role where much of my work is done from home. I have select days in London, largely used to cram in as many meetings as possible and have some face-to-face time in the office, but it’s amazing what you can squeeze in to a small amount of time. My days in London are efficient and purposeful, and I love the buzz I feel in town, and the time I have with my colleagues, even if it’s fleeting.”
Liz finished up by telling us ‘‘As a working mum, I work really hard. The drive I thought I’d lost a year ago to make and maintain client relationships, to make that sale, and to create great outdoor campaigns hadn’t left me. I love doing my absolute best to succeed for myself, and for my company. If anything, the drive I feel is stronger, as more than ever I want to make myself, my family and my workplace proud’’
The message is loud and clear, work / life balance is important for people to feel that they are able to thrive in both environments, and those businesses brave enough to take a modern approach are accessing talent that otherwise would be out of reach.
See the story on NABS here.