Sunday, 15 May 2011

I want a job BUT... (Dilemma of the working home-makers)

Today I wanted to write about something closer to my own heart and current situation in life. Ever since I remember back from school days, I haven't really had a long holiday or relaxed lifestyle. Being the over ambitious and studious kid that I was, always worried about grades and involved in five other extra-curricular activities, I hardly had time to spare for anything other than 6 hours of sleep and sometime even less. 

Running about from grade to grade, I finally enrolled into an MBA program which made my routine crazier - and my mindset even more competitive and career oriented. Right from day one in your MBA class you know you have to fight for the best job in the market - and if you get it you go to the next level of 'having no time'. Thats exactly what happened to me. As ideal as it may seem - I pursued an Investment Banking career in London right after graduation. Having exhausted myself in the 8am-10pm (on good days) routine for about 2 years,  I decided to slow down a bit and come closer to home. So I moved to Dubai and found a job in the Consumer Goods industry which gave me a few extra hours to myself but still kept me pretty much on my toes. 

And then life took its course and I got married. As I had 'idealistically' planned, I took sometime off to enjoy the first few months of this new transition in life and also to settle in with the change. Being the restless workaholic that I had become over the years, this break was only pleasant for a while and my soul started to feel idle and useless very soon ,and I'm now back on a serious job hunt....BUT... but the dilemma now is that having seen, read about, and experienced the horrors and stresses of corporate life, I know and understand the kind of impact it 'could' have on your family life if you're not an excellent 'gymnast' when it comes to work-life balance. This is more relevant for females as they share a greater share of the responsibility of home and kids. 

So now I am looking for a job, and a good one, but I feel like the corporate sector still hasn't progressed enough to accommodate the very natural and crucial transitions like marriage and motherhood,  in the life of their female employees. Not many companies are well set up with 'agile work spaces' that allow you to function flexibly out of the office. Day cares are now an upcoming trend but still has a long way to go before it becomes one of the key facilitations in the eyes of Human Resources.

'Job share' is another concept which sounds quite appealing to those for whom time is more relevant than money. In this case two employees are employed at the same position and they split their salary and hours in half. This concept again is quite unexplored by most companies. It is understandable that this is a hassle from the management point of view where a manager has to supervise two instead of one person for the same job but on the other hand its not likely that both female employees would take leave or become mothers at the same time which makes it easier to hold on to the work load when such a situation arises. Instead of having no assistant, you have 'half an assistant' while you find a replacement for the other half. And in many cases because the job sharing colleagues work very closely, one can take the load of the other on a temporary basis. Companies also offer the job share partner to take the full load and full pay if they are interested.

The job share colleagues choose the hours that suit them - and can exchange hours when they need to move around work for a need at home. It also brings more competitiveness to the team as job share colleagues are constantly at a comparison. They know they are not the only assistant and they cannot exploit the manager. They also know that when it comes to dealing with cross functional teams, their manager has two lenses to view a situation from and therefore there are chances for less bias (on softer issues etc.)

While I am still only a wife and not a mother and could afford to work full and manage home exhausting the best of my energy and organisational skills - I am conscious that I 'could' be at another stand-still situation in a few years with motherhood. I might be thinking too long term but that's exactly how the corporate sector needs to think if they do not want to face high turn over of their female employees who are now in significant number and at quite strategic positions.

I recently read a very good book called 'Womenomics' by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay (two high flying journalists) which talks about the dilemmas, stresses that career oriented females go through when they start making homes and families. They are almost at a loss of options to keep their conscience and intellect satisfied at the same time! While its completely alright to choose one way or the other if that's clearly your priority, but most women after having worked full-time would like to remain intellectually engaged and productive while they still manage their homes and play their part as mums. The book also ‘re-defines success for women’. I recommend this book to all females who're at this stage or planning this stage in their life and careers. I also think employers should take learning from this book to devise such HR policies and work arrangements that females to be able to progress beyond mid-career levels with least negative impact on their home lives and nerves! :) 


  1. Good piece fizz...
    There should also be some way of making working online a your own pace from your own home and computer.
    That can be for everyone too.
    Dont know how much can be done long distance though...

  2. Hi Noshe, in my previous role in dubai I used to work out of the dubai office but actually managed teams across the region ...there are ways to manage but they are still not as institutionalized yet. Unilever is one of the pioneers in agile working and during my last few days this practice had become quite common where employees could work 2 days a week out of office. They were also encouraging skype for virtual meetings across different locations. It also saves on the costs for the company you see.

  3. Fizza..this is EXACTLY my dilemma these days. At the moment, I don't plan on working right away but would love to explore flexible part-time things I can do from home in my own field. One of my hesitations is I don't know WHAT that could be and to ask people for advice/help. I have a major hang-up about it :P