I’ve worked in the Jewish community in a variety of roles for 15 years and, during that time, have been involved in recruitment for a whole range of positions.
Recently, when I was recruiting for my successor at the Yoni Jesner Foundation, I was completely overwhelmed by the response – more than 20 people expressed an interest in the post and 15 applied, most of them women.
And the main reason for that? Well, the foundation is an amazing small charity that punches above its weight, giving the new director the opportunity to have a significant impact.
That’s definitely a factor, but I also think one of the biggest factors was that this is a totally flexible job – three days a week, from home if you need. When I spoke to the potential applicants, this was one of the main factors. “I want to have a challenging job, but still be able to pick up my kids from school,” said one.
I spoke to someone who had already used most of their annual leave for the year to look after her ill child. She couldn’t afford to take the statutory unpaid leave allocated to days needed to care for sick children, and her managers wouldn’t provide the flexibility to let her work from home.
I’ve been very fortunate to work for amazing employers since I had my children and have worked part-time for the past eight years. I know I am significantly more efficient and make more of an impact when I work part-time. I’m task focused, have my work hat firmly in place when I’m there and am also happy to be responsive on the days when I don’t work.
Research also proves that part-time doesn’t only mean a part-time eye on the ball. A survey by BT in 2014 found that the productivity of flexible workers increased by 30 percent. And in a study of flexible workers undertaken by Cranfield University, almost 100 percent of managers said the quantity and quality of work improved or stayed the same.
Jewish Care used to do a piece of training called the Relationship Bank account. This was a way of building a reciprocal relationship of trust between staff and their managers, particularly in times when promotion might not be an option. The idea was that if you do something outstanding or go above and beyond, you will get credit in your relationship bank account. You could then ‘use’ those credits when you needed it, such as to attend a child’s sports day.
The work force has changed. If you are not a service provider, you can be as effective working from your local coffee shop or your dining room table as in your office. What I also know is that if we don’t embrace flexible working, particularly to support working parents, but also anyone who has caring responsibilities, we will face a talent drain.
I have personally seen so many of my contemporaries step back from the workplace when it becomes too difficult to achieve a successful, sustainable work-life balance. We can’t afford to have such a talent drain in the Jewish community.
And, its not just about making your employees happy. According to Timewise, whose tagline is ‘talent through flexibility’, flexible working has a big impact on retention, employee motivation and creates a more diverse workplace.
Without even thinking too much about it, I can list those who lead their organisations while working flexibly, among them Simi Ben Hur at Shaare Zedek UK; Michelle Bauernfreund at the Office of the Chief Rabbi; Rabbi Miriam Berger at Finchley Reform Synagogue; and Hannah Weisfeld at Yachad. Several organisations, including Masorti Judaism and the New Israel Fund offer real flexible working.
So why can’t our professional and lay leaders consider seriously thinking about whether the next job they advertise, and those after that, could be advertised as open to flexible working?