Sheri Hughes: Agile working is the key to empowering parents


Bring Your Child to Work Day, typically held in April, is intended to give children an insight into the world of work and, as a one-off annual event, it can be a real tonic for employees across the board. At Michael Page, we make a day of it. In previous years we have hired a magician and entertainment to help visiting children get the maximum enjoyment from their time in our offices.

However, for some working parents, taking children to work can be a necessity, rather than a fun event. In these cases, businesses and employees need to work together to create a careful balance. The employee needs to be thoroughly considerate of their environment, from colleagues to the nature of the work and the space available. Meanwhile, the organisation needs to be open to supporting the needs of its staff. This might involve welcoming children into the workplace or looking at other childcare options.

This is a prime example of how organisations can be more accommodating towards working parents. For me, the term ‘working parents’ is key; equal opportunities should be offered to all parents, not just working mothers. To that end, I advocate employing agile working, or dynamic working as we call it at Michael Page.

Agile working means fluid working. It is a different concept entirely to flexible working, where employees make contractual changes to support their lifestyle needs. With agile working, employees are empowered to work more creatively, with an adaptable agreement. It is not about presenteeism; instead, it is purely about performance.

Agility allows both employees and the employer to accommodate last-minute changes or one-off circumstances, because the organisational culture is one of high trust and high productivity. With the openness to make choices, it optimises the impact on both work and family life, which is perhaps why we see many working parents among our top performers.

Bring Your Child to Work Day is a fantastic concept, but if every day becomes Bring Your Child to Work Day, employers need to take a careful look at their support for working parents.

Sheri Hughes is UK diversity and inclusion director at recruitment agency Michael Page