Juggle Founder Romanie Thomas on how professionals looking for flexible work can sometimes be perceived as unambitious – and why that makes no sense at all.
Flexible working historically means “part-time”. And with that perception comes a series of negative connotations. Any of these sound familiar?
“Not serious about their career.”
“Can’t hack it.”
No-one ambitious wants to be shoved into these categories. In the world where winners are seen as relentless, always hungry (and therefore always present), we’re not keen to associate flexible working with ambition.
Which, when you really break it down, is counter-intuitive. What is “ambition”, if not the desire to achieve on your own terms? The most ambitious people work on their own schedule, towards their own definition of success. They set their own goals and achieve them in their own way. Flexibility isn’t a barrier to ambition – it’s a requirement.
Of course, ambitious people who want flexibility have to work extremely hard. And here’s where we run into another set of lazy negative connotations. The perception that flexible work isn’t work, or is “less” than non-flexible work, is a myth that persists despite – again – being counter-intuitive. Most people seek flexible work because they have too much to do – too many responsibilities or people to care for, too many side-hustles or creative endeavours – not because they want to sit on the sofa for a few more hours a week. As professionals become more senior their levels of autonomy and flexibility increase – but the assumption that they aren’t working hard falls away. A CEO who sets their own schedule isn’t perceived as unambitious.
Ambitious people benefit hugely from creating their own structure. No-one is going to dictate how their brain works and when. They need family interaction and hobbies to be empowered. They need autonomy to create their own goals, and flexibility to achieve them in the way that’s most efficient for them. Anything else leads to wasted time, and every ambitious person I’ve ever met hates wasting time.
By reserving flexible working as a “perk” for the most senior roles – or worse, refusing to countenance it at all – businesses are limiting the potential of the most ambitious employees. Flexible working is not a challenge for employers – it’s an incredibly exciting prospect. If you empower professionals to take the reins… truly amazing things can happen.
We’ve all heard the success stories behind Netflix and Virgin. Juggle works on a much smaller scale – but I can say with total confidence that everyone works incredibly hard. They’re also ambitious, both about their own development and the business’s; they want to take Juggle from a fledgling start-up to a big company with a huge impact on the future of work. They want to change the world. There are few bigger ambitions than that.
To get there, I want the best people to do their best work. And they’re going to do their best work when they’re in control, see their family, take holiday and recharge whenever they need and work in different environments to see other points of view. It’s not possible to have NO rules, but we keep the list as small as possible. To be honest we barely remember the rules we have, since we don’t ever need to enforce them: ambitious people still want structure and a chance to collaborate. They just want to do it on their own terms.
The most ambitious people are the most inherently flexible. There could be people in your business who are primed to let their ambition propel them – and you – toward success. To start creating an environment that lets these people excel, talk to Juggle or download our Starting Flexible Working policy guide.