Bell (@rebbell) , Dir., Marketing for Cisco Services EMEAR
What am I talking about? Workplace, or should I say work-time, flexibility.
Last night I spent time with my best friend from school. Amidst wine and laughs and general catching up, we got to speaking about work. “Could you imagine working somewhere else other than Cisco?” she asked, innocently.
This got me thinking. I’ve been with Cisco seven years. Sure it’s challenging. I work harder than I have ever worked before. Because my job involves collaborating across timezones I regularly find myself on extended team calls at 11pm. It’s part of the territory. No one likes to have to do this all the time, but I accept it’s part of the role. And they reward me well with a decent package and always-challenging work.
But I will confess the most fantastic part of my work, and the people I work with, is trust. My bosses trust me to get my work done and do it well. They don’t need to see me every day to make sure I’m doing what I should be. They don’t care what hour of the day I choose to work to do what needs to be done. I have what I believe to be the nirvana of any working person: the freedom and flexibility to work when I want to within each 24 hour period.
This is more important to me than I ever would have thought because my kids are young. I don’t want to farm them out when their after-school activities are finished, so I choose to pause work at 5.15pm for four hours every week night, and return to my computer later in the evening when homework, washing, dinner and bath-time is complete.
Last summer I was having dinner with some people I didn’t know too well, including a newly married middle manager working in the City at an international bank. She is desperate to start a family and asked me how it was possible to hold down a senior role at a company like Cisco, as a single mother with 2 children in junior school. Her employer insists everyone is in the office at a stated time every single day and that they stay until it’s reasonable to leave.
This was when the penny dropped. I couldn’t do what I do if I worked at many, many other companies. But because Cisco has the maturity to trust its staff, to provide technology to make it possible and takes the time to recruit well it is possible for me to do it. Though I work from home most of the time, smart devices and HD Telepresence ensure that I can collaborate with and (virtually) see my colleagues, whether they are in California, Krakow or Kenya.
This means that I can attend a dental appointment, school sports day, or simply go out for breakfast without seeking approval or feeling the need to apologise for my absence. After all, it’s not absence, it’s merely a pause in my working day. And I really believe that today’s businesses need to consider this issue very carefully if they want to develop and retain a diverse and vibrant workforce. Millennials seem to have different worktime requirements and expectations. So do working parents.
So in the past seven years this ‘work luxury’ has quickly become my work and life necessity.
And though one day I probably will leave Cisco (I still have 25 years left until I officially ‘retire’ from work!), it would have to be a pretty miraculous opportunity that combines great, mind-expanding career options and the true flexibility to work my way, that would tempt me away.
And for that, I am truly grateful.