I keep thinking about sex. Specifically, sex in marketing.
Get your mind out of the gutter, I’m obviously talking about gender here!
Last month we polled nearly 300 marketers about the role of gender in marketing, asking them how their gender has affected them in their careers (if at all).
Considering popular stereotypes, some of the results were kind of expected (women were about four times more likely than men to have noticed a gender imbalance among speakers at industry events they attend). Some were a bit surprising (male marketers are more likely than females to spend more than three hours a day on household tasks and errands). Others made me check and double check the responses to see if I missed something (not a single agency marketer in our sample works part-time).
The case for flexible working
As someone who works part-time for a content marketing agency, albeit as an in-house marketer rather than with responsibility for clients, I was most intrigued by the responses around the area of flexibility. Since reducing my hours with Axonn Media to 70 per cent about four months ago (and spending only one day a week working in the office), I’ve fully embraced flexible working.
And it’s no understatement to say it has changed my life.
My productivity is up and my stress levels are down. Instead of walking into the office at about 8:30 in the morning and having to leave at 4:45 for the nursery run, I am set up and working at 7:45, clocking off at 5pm on the nose to pick up my son and spend a precious couple of hours with him. Lunchtimes or breaks are for hanging out the washing, dinner prep, nipping to the supermarket or out on another errand or even taking a nap. I have definitely never watched Dale’s Supermarket Sweep on the sofa while eating my sandwich...
And one of the best bits is that instead of sitting on a warm and always-delayed Northern Rail rattler twice a day, I get over an hour of my day back to spend as I please.
It’s not just the longer hours of being actively working that mean I get more done. Because there is far fewer interruptions (in fact, I prefer working in complete silence, not even with background music), I am able to focus my attention on the task at hand a lot better.
Not for everyone
Things haven’t been completely plain sailing. It has taken a lot of adjustment to estimate how much I can realistically get done in 70% of the time I had before. It’s a pain for colleagues to arrange meetings with me, and I’ve missed out on conversations/events that I’d usually have been a part of in the office. And let’s not even talk about all the weight I’ve gained from the constant draw of the biscuits in the cupboard and the lack of walking to the office from the station...
On balance, for me it is still very much worth it. But make no mistake, this approach to work isn’t for everyone. It took me well over a decade of working full-time in an office to realise when I'm at my best as an employee. It’s a very personal thing and doesn't have anything to do with being an extrovert or an introvert. It really boils down to figuring out which type of environment is most conducive to effective working for each individual. But employers continue to ignore the potential advantages of relaxing their rules in this area.
Flexible working in marketing
Going back to our research, it’s astounding that 85% of our respondents said they work full-time, mainly from the office. That’s the vast majority of the same sample of marketers who lament their work/life balance and complain about the challenges of juggling the demands of their personal life (in particular raising kids) with their careers. And while our research shows mums have a far tougher time juggling careers and parenthood than dads, that's not to say men need flexible working just as much as women.
One respondent suggested he has no choice but to work long hours, because “clients don’t care that you have children; a deadline is a deadline and it has to be met regardless”. Another left a previous role where her employers were “inflexible about working from home, school drop-off, time off due to children’s illness, etc.”. She added that while the setup at her current workplace is very different, this is “not common enough” in her opinion.
And it’s not just parents who complain about this issue. There are lots of reasons why people might prefer to work part-time, for example wanting to pursue a hobby or voluntary work for part of the week, or having to travel on a regular basis for a long-distance relationship, taking care of a vulnerable family member or finally writing that novel.
Whatever the reasons, if employers fail to make flexible working practices the norm in their organisations, they will lose out on some top talent who will leave and look for a better solution elsewhere. In many cases - and our research reiterates this - people will take a step back from their careers and take on a less demanding role elsewhere, which means they fail to reach their potential.
There’s no denying that it is a challenge, but it’s one that has to be tackled by the businesses that want to do the best.