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The Dream vs Reality

My lived experience of part-time work, parenting, and working from home

Three years ago I was looking to return to the workforce after having children. I really wanted to cut out the dreaded commute time to the office, as well as those rushed pickups from school and childcare. Who wants that stress in their lives every day? I thought about how wonderful it would be if I were able to work part-time, and from home, without all the logistical pressures… Surely I wasn’t the only one who dreamed about this?

Well, dreams do come true, but not quite in the way we might have expected!

I secured my ideal three-days-per-week job, with the option to work from home, just as the pandemic was starting to hit here in Victoria. I set up my perfect working space by the window. The garden became my daily view. This was going to be bliss.

However, within weeks I would realise this was not going to be quite so blissful after all. With lockdowns in place, both schools and childcare centres were closed and things changed dramatically. The children would now be home for the foreseeable future. Not only was I a recruiter, I had the added roles of teacher, carer and boredom reliever/entertainer whilst fulfilling my day job. Family life once again became a juggling act, trying to fit in work calls around setting up my young son – who was only new to the education system, with his daily tasks – trying to stop the other child from having too much screen time versus drawing on every surface of the house. It was a nightmare.

While my WFH dream had faded, the world @work carried on. Not exactly normal or new normal, just in a slightly different way. Catching up for coffee with a client or candidate was shelved for meeting on Teams or Zoom, and our recruitment process adapted to interviewing and onboarding candidates online, not knowing when they would meet their employers in person. Even my husband started a new role during Covid – it took him nine months to finally meet his colleagues in person.

Like so many people here in Australia with family and friends abroad, I am heading overseas in a couple of months to see my own family after a long absence. It has been tough for everybody, especially missing out on the special times together. As for me, this time I have decided it’s not going to be a working holiday and I am grateful that Slade Group supports that.

It’s been great to see flexibility occurring more broadly in the market. Progressive companies are supporting their employees by considering extended leave, career breaks, boomerang hires and other forms of engagement – all of which I have benefited from over the years, which enables them to retain the talent they have invested in. These are also the companies attracting that coveted top talent, not only here in Australia, but globally. I am not just talking about the hybrid model or simply working from home. Think about employees working across different times zones. I think we have proven that all of these can be done, and be done successfully.

As some of the old normal starts to return, my dream is growing bright again. I get to keep on doing what I wanted to do, which is return to work (minus the deputy teacher and childcare jobs on the side), in a role I love, connected and productive, at my home office with my desk next to the window overlooking the garden. I truly feel like one of the lucky ones. To all those parents that are looking to return to the workforce – finally we have far more options and flexibility than we ever did before, and I would not want it any other way.

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work

A checklist for successful onboarding, road-tested by our new GM

Thinking about how best to make your new team member feel valued from the very beginning takes little time or effort, but the impact can certainly be lasting.

I was lucky enough to take six months off in 2021 (which unfortunately coincided with yet another lockdown in Melbourne) with a view to taking part in some of the Ironman 70.3 triathlon races around Australia. Border closures soon put an end to that plan, but I got pretty fit in the process and loved being able to support my kids as they went through a couple more terms of virtual school. My wife continued to work full-time on her retail business through this time, so being able to keep things under control on the home front was a real bonus.

By September, I was starting to think about a new role, when the opportunity to join Slade Group appeared on my horizon – an exciting opportunity to work with a great team in a business with over 50 years of successful history. Having talked to clients and candidates for two years about how to prepare to onboard or be onboarded from home, I was now about to experience it for myself… I was feeling that nervous excitement, like kid about to start a new school!

First impressions with your new employer count a lot. Receiving all my paperwork and company information promptly was a good start, followed up by a friendly call to check I had received it all ok. I liked that.

The week before my start date, my technology arrived, complete with all my login details. It seems like fair expectation that this would happen. Yet, I have heard so many tales over the last 20 years from candidates who have turned up on day one to find the IT set-up had not been done, or worse still, some who had to clean their new desk! Not the best way to make someone feel welcome.

On my first day, I received a jam-packed onboarding plan covering the first few weeks. Zoom meetings had been prepopulated in my diary, and almost every minute of every day had been accounted for. I immediately felt comfortable that there was a good structure in place to introduce me to every part of the organisation and my team.

I received phone calls from others in the team (including my new boss) welcoming me on board and reassuring me that we would all get to meet in person soon. I felt included straight away; I didn’t feel like I was isolated WFH in my home office. I was given thorough training on our systems, reviewed key client information and was immediately able to put a plan together to meet (again virtually) many of our key customers. On the Thursday of week one I was able to enjoy a virtual wine tasting event with the team, led by one of the Yarra Valley’s leading winemakers. The fact that three bottles of their produce were delivered to my door in advance of the event (on my first day) was a nice touch.

My first impressions of Slade Group were good. I knew I had made the right decision to join the business.

Many organisations have given extra thought over the last few years on how to best onboard new employees given the unusual circumstances. There is no doubt that complacency has existed across parts of corporate Australia before demand for talent outstripped supply and job hunters were catapulted into the driving seat. My hope is that the greater level of care and attention we are now seeing when welcoming new starters lasts – particularly as offices reopen and start to fill up again.

Here is a minimum checklist for your own onboarding plan:

  1. Start date – Make sure you know the actual start date of your new team member and put a reminder in your diary
  2. Equipment – Ensure they have all the equipment they will need to do their job, not just a computer, and arrange delivery ahead of their start date if they will be working remotely
  3. Support – Liaise with colleagues in support roles to provide essential services well in advance
  4. Welcome pack – A welcome gift or care pack that will be appreciated
  5. Stakeholders – Engage the key stakeholders who will be working with your new team member and include them in the onboarding plan
  6. Onboarding plan – Develop a written plan covering all aspects of training, knowledge sharing and introductions that can be shared with the new employee
  7. Contact – Call or send your new employee a message before they start to let them know you’re looking forward to seeing them, even if it’s on Zoom
  8. Check-in – Regular check-ins during the first few weeks go a long way (put a note in the diary)

It is very reassuring for a new employee (at any level) to know that their first week or two have been carefully thought out. Considering there may not be any water cooler chats for a little while, it’s important to ask new starters for continual feedback. Any opportunities for improvement should always be welcomed for the next hire. And if you have done all of the above well, it shouldn’t be replacing the person you have just onboarded!

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Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work