A significant driver behind requests for flexible working is to deal with the need to balance work and home life priorities. When making the request the focus is often very much on the physical presence needed; I need to pick up the kids at a certain time, I need to train for a marathon, I need to take care of my elderly mother. What is often forgotten about in our modern world is the mental load that comes with balancing work-home life and how flexible working can support the mental load overload of modern life.
When making a request colleagues often focus on the physical presence issue - I need to leave at 3pm to pick up my child from school or I need to work from home one day per week so I can take my mother to the doctor. While this is an important consideration for a flexible working request it is also vital to also think about what your mental needs are. As a single parent I am able to juggle the physical need to pick up my daughter after school two days a week through working part-time but I also use the time away from work to help me maintain my mental health. I do this in two ways;
*Socializing; I am lucky enough to live in an area with an incredible community spirit centered around a local adventure playground. Hundreds of children and parents congregate after school at the adventure playground. I use the time after school pick up two days per week to stay sane with my parent friends. Working almost full time can leave me relatively isolated from my local community and other parents. Spending a few hours a week re-integrating with other parents gives me a reality check with whatever interesting stage my children are going through and also helps me to see that everyone is generally going through similar issues.
*Me Time: I leave an hour before I need to pick up my youngest and I use this time just to do things for myself. For example I go and get a half hour massage, I write this blog or I just go home and have a cup of tea in silence. This rare time alone gives me the mental head space to carry on life juggle. I never use this time for house work or shopping. This me time is especially important if you are not experiencing optimal work-life balance, as it gives you time to breath which helps you to build up resilience for whatever the rest of the day (and evening) might bring.
Flexible working is an important tool to reduce the mental load overload so if you are considering a flexible working request make sure you are looking at both your physical and your mental needs before making your flexibility request.
All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.