As a question, it’s pretty loaded. When I ask you to choose between being flexible and being rigid, it’s clear which I want you to choose.
Yet, as Sinead Jeffries’ article argued recently, too many market research businesses embrace rigid cultures over flexible working. She argues that it’s time for the industry to change or risk losing talent.
She interviewed me for the piece from her remote office in France. We spoke about how the market research sector is some way behind other industries.
I was keen to stress, from my point of view, that it’s not necessarily a gender issue. Yes mothers want flexibility, but increasingly, so do fathers.
And it doesn’t end there.
People without children who want to balance their research career with their passion for woodwork also want more flexibility. And those who want to retrain as physiotherapists. And those who want to spend time as school governors or Samaritans. All these require flexible jobs.
We’re going to be working longer. If we’re going to work until we’re 70 or 80, we want to make sure we’re fulfilled. For some that’s doing one thing all day, every day. For others it’s doing several things at once.
I work with someone who balances his work as a language consultant, his responsibilities as a local councillor and his love of acting and writing. The paid work gives him the freedom to give back to society and feed his other loves. It’s what I’ve heard referred to as a “composite career”.
It’s something I aspire to. I’m not there yet. But I’ve found a happy middle-ground between the flexibility offered by my last large corporate role and the long hours and attendance required by my last agency role. I’m at the centre of a small research consultancy. I work with a network of other consultants, meaning I’m not excluded from larger, more stimulating work. I do great work for great companies (if that doesn’t sound too Donald Trump!). But I also have the flexibility to take my kids trampolining and mentor pupils at my local school.
I’m pleased I’ve managed to find a flexible model that works for me. But I’ve had to create that for myself.
I’m pleased we’re starting to talk about flexibility. I’m pleased we’re using loaded language. I just want to see more change.