Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.
To begin – this is absolutely NOT a ‘woe is me’ blog. This blog is a true account of how Flex Working has enabled a family to retain ‘normality’ in a difficult situation. Why am I telling this? Because it is factual, because it is relevant and because I like to address the taboo at times!
Naturally, there will be those that think that the course of action taken is insensitive or ‘wrong’. To those I say – we all deal with situations in our own way, in a way that helps us to get through them, and we are all individuals with individual paths.
Let’s go back four years. My mother was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Surgery, Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy – it all went by in a blur, and my family’s lives changed forever. This was a time of shock, change and fear of the unknown. We all took time away from working lives to be there and support – and to learn and understand what impact this would have, not only on Mum’s life, but also on our own.
One lesson I have learned along this 4 year journey is ‘what being able to work means to the sick’. At first, Mum’s employer was supportive of mum with her illness, but then as the sick pay runs out, and her ability to travel to work is impaired with the frequent hospital visits and bouts of extreme tiredness due to the treatments – She was pensioned off.
She lost daily contact with colleagues and her feeling of worth deteriorated, the job that she loved (and had studied for years to qualify for) was no longer hers. She missed her friends and interaction. Her employer lost a loyal, committed and knowledgeable employee – taking with her experience and skills that they could have leveraged – had they had technology such as Circuit. Circuit would have enabled knowledge share/team collaboration/advice on an ad hoc basis – the employer retains knowledge whilst the employee retains a feeling of value. Even on a consultancy basis, this could have made Mum’s convalescence so much easier as she would have still felt valued, and her employer would have continued to realise the investment they had made into Mum’s education and qualifications.
Moving on, how has flex working helped me lately? Well, here is a diary of a recent week !
Monday: work from home, pack straight after and drive 100 or so miles to Mum’s to stay overnight ready for an early start the next day. Because I am an ‘anywhere worker’ I am able to stay with Mum to help her out for a week after her Chemotherapy – so much better for her than taking her home to mine and her having to fit in with our daily madness at home. This way she gets to relax and be comfortable in her own home, her own bed, and with her own routine – but with that little bit of assistance and company through the post treatment lull.
Tuesday: Leave the house early, having booked a half day holiday. Now the reason for that half day’s holiday is that I would be spending a significant part of my day driving the 60 miles or so to the hospital for Chemotherapy treatment, so whilst driving I am not being productive. However, I only booked a half day as whilst the treatment was in progress and Mum slept, I had wifi and a laptop (and coffee!) and was able to be totally productive thanks to flexible work enabling technology. During this treatment though, it was identified that we now needed an urgent blood transfusion and an appointment to kick off a ‘port’ being fitted for administering future treatments, PLUS (yup… ANOTHER appointment) for a review with the Oncologist. Not a problem I say, I am fortunate that I am a) already staying at mum’s, b) my children are grown and don’t need me to rush home and c) I can work remotely and flexibly!
Wednesday: A work from (Mum’s) home day. Pretty uneventful, business as usual.
Thursday: Early start, head the 60 miles back to the hospital for an early meeting with the Oncologist. I take another half day’s leave because actually, I need my head in the room for this meeting – and I really do know when it is the right time to switch off work. The appointment last’s just half hour, so we head to a restaurant for lunch and for me to get on the wifi and work for a couple of hours before the next meeting. Back to hospital, next appointment done and dusted, and then head to a local hotel. Hit the room, log onto free wifi and work til dinner.
Friday: Early start for blood transfusion. Settle Mum in, grab a coffee and whilst she sleeps I am working… typing this blog, amongst other things, as it happens!
So that is my week. I have demonstrated agility, I have worked flexible hours, I have known when is right to give my full attention to personal life over work – and taken holiday accordingly.
As this illness has been ongoing for 4 years, we have all learned to live with it. It is what it is. We are not complacent – but we have all adapted to a new way of living with it. Personally, I have found ‘business as usual’ to be very grounding. I thank my lucky stars that I am able to balance work and life thanks to new ways to work.