As you might imagine, I had initially dismissed this suggestion because in all honesty, how could my journey to work possibly be an interesting topic? After a little reflection though, I realised that my daily commute isn’t just about getting myself from A to B. My journey to work actually plays an important part in maintaining my wellbeing… but how, you ask?
As a working mum, you’ll typically see me rushing into the office at 9 am, more often than not flustered having already fought multiple battles with my two year old to get her dressed and out the door on time to nursery. Having to do the drop off usually means by the time I begin my commute I’m hit by a series of roadworks because by then, it’s no longer considered to be rush hour.
Come the end of day, I’m racing out the door praying I don’t hit any traffic which is almost impossible on the M42. Brain in gear, calculating how long I have to make it to nursery on time before the late pick up fees start, and wishing I’d drunk more coffee so I had second wind as I plan my next “shift” – dinner, bath, bedtime, housework, organising everyone’s things ready for the following day. Sounds manic I know but my journey to and from work is also time which I really value.
It’s very often the only alone time I get for the day. It’s time I have to myself, time when I can actively switch off from mum mode to work mode and vice versa. It’s also time I have to make peace with that horrible feeling called “mum guilt” and time I spend looking forward to seeing my little girl and husband – the two people who define my why, my purpose.
With such tremendous pressure to have it all, and achieve work-life balance, having an employer who recognises these conflicts makes all the difference.
I’m extremely fortunate that here at Henley Research, I work in a business that embraces a flexible working culture and one that is supportive of their people, not just of working mums but of all of us. It’s strange to think that in some businesses, the concept of flexible working is still accompanied by the preconception that it’s purely an arrangement for working parents.
I should caveat this by saying this “privilege” I enjoy isn’t a one-way street. Flexible working in any organisation isn’t just about change management but it’s also about mutual trust and clear communication. Flexible working shouldn’t come at the cost of productivity or at doing our jobs well. Compromises sometimes need to be made, adult conversations need to be had and it only works when all parties give and take in equal measures.
Luckily for me, it isn’t just my commute which keeps me grounded but I work in a business that embraces agile working and allows me to make space for the different facets of my life.
Noa Muratsubaki (Principal Consultant at Henley Research International), October 2019.