There’s no doubt about it – whether it’s known as flexible, agile or any other term – re-looking at how, when and where we work is a concept taking over the workplace. It’s an evolution from the traditional concept of flexible working and looks to add value to the business as well as benefiting the individual. And job-sharing is just one of a range of agile working arrangements.
Meet Madeleine McDougall
and Andrew Hulme
, Managing Directors, Global Head of Real Estate & Housing. They’re responsible for the real estate and housing business for the Group. Together they form a rare executive-level job share within banking, and have recently been recognised in the Timewise Power 50
, the UK’s only celebration of people and places who excel at flexible working.
We caught up with them to learn more.
Could you take us back – what it was that made you consider a job share?
M: From being very ambitious professionally throughout university and starting my career, to having three young children, I’ve continued to champion gender diversity. Historically the view has been that you tend to leave the workforce post children and return at a later date, so I woke up one morning and thought – why can’t we work in a different way in the modern age? As I was pondering this, Andy and I went for a coffee, compared what was happening in our lives and I expressed how I was feeling, which was that I really love my job and I really love my kids, but how could I get this to work better, as my resilience and wellbeing were suffering. It dawned on us both that we could have a period of time in our careers where we do things a little bit differently.
A: My situation was not dissimilar – not the same reasons, but the same drivers. My husband and I had just adopted a little boy, James, and work was pretty intense. Like Maddie, I’ve worked very hard since the beginning of my career and it was time for a change of role, to pause and reflect. I needed to take stock, to find a bit of capacity to make sure that I was present at work and at home to have that space for myself to recharge.
What has been the most challenging aspect of job sharing that you’ve experienced?
A: I struggled a bit with the shift in mindset. I worked full time from university, never had an extended break, so no longer working five days a week has been a big adjustment. Particularly in the initial period, I found myself constantly checking emails rather than saying ‘this is my day off’.
M: That point around stepping away, because I think it’s human nature in all of us where we think, if I had the conversation then it’s easier for me to reply, but for Andy he’s thinking it’s his day. It comes from a well-meaning place but we quickly realised it was muddying the waters. We were very open with the team about being patient with us, and having very defined boundaries was crucial. We learned very quickly that while we know communication is important, we have to over-communicate to both our team and each other. We have something called the emergency call or text, where there’s something we can just quickly pick up with each other on one of our non-working days to keep us aligned.
What would you have done if you couldn’t have had a job share?
M: Do you know what? I had total faith in the Group that we would find a solution. This is one of the reasons we like working here, because whether they were going to agree to this job share or not, I knew they’d listen which is so important. I also knew they’d be forward thinking enough to at least investigate the options out there. As we knew it was something we wanted to do, we worked out all the potential issues, so that when we presented this idea we could make those reassurances. The job share was our answer; there will be different solutions for someone else.
A: In my 2018 end of year review I’d mentioned that I was thinking about my work life balance, due to the amount of change I’d had in my life that year. I was keen to make changes but I wasn’t sure what they were. At that point, it was important for me to start that conversation with my line manager, so I could get his support. So when this opportunity came about he was incredibly supportive, and came up with a list of questions so we could work through the solutions together. We spend our working days finding solutions for our customers, so why not find solutions for yourself?
Finally, how do you see it transforming the way you work?
A: I think it becomes a virtual circle, because we’ve become more focused and able to do our jobs better. We have more energy with our families and we’re happier in our own minds, and when it comes to our general wellbeing it’s a really positive story. I didn’t necessarily expect this but it’s gone down really well with our team, and it’s changed the dialogue so people are able to have more open and honest conversations about what’s important to them at that moment in time and how we can support them in achieving that.
The most positive reaction has been from our clients who work for large businesses in the UK. We were mindful about how they would react, and they’ve actually really embraced it. They’re on their own inclusion, diversity and agility journey to reflect modern day society. Most of them are jealous!
M: Our productivity has improved as well. This doesn’t make us any less ambitious and it’s not forever – we’re not taking a back seat. As a role we’ve got more cognitive diversity as there’s two people making the decisions, but we’re just as ambitious as a team as we are individually. Whether that means we stay together for this period in our careers or whether we go back to different ways of working, we don’t know that ourselves yet, but that’s exciting.