3 min read

Flexible working – how to have your cake and eat it

CTO Colin Howe explores how to make the most of flexible work.
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Getting to know you – hobbies and lifestyle

For Mark Zuckerberg, employing staff with extra-curricular hobbies is crucial because: “Often that’s one of the best ways people can show passion and leadership.” And for professionals, the mere existence a hobby can put them at an advantage in the job market.
Although it may be clichéd, people have realised there is ‘more to life’, and they want it. With the desire for better work/life balance, some of our ‘jugglers’ listed the most simple of requests in their ‘Getting to know you’ forms; they wanted more time to exercise. Others, wished to travel more or indulge their creative sides and pursue hobbies like writing, gardening, painting and music.
Time away from work spent doing something they love improves people’s time management abilities. In addition, choosing an activity that offers a number of benefits like bettering their mental and physical health and/or helping to build skills has a positive impact for employers too, because happy and fulfilled workers are productive workers. With this in mind, we shone the spotlight on our very own ‘juggler’ Colin to find out how flexible working works for him and why.

  • Name: Colin Howe
  • Age: 32
  • Occupation: Chief Technology Officer

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I’m Peterborough born-and-bred, but moved to Cambridge for university before making my way to London via some other home counties.

I’m fairly easy-going and don’t take anything too seriously, unless it involves competition and then I’m basically Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

When did you begin working flexibly?
When I moved into startups and started working for Conversocial 5/6 years ago.

What type of flexible working do you engage in?

I currently do full-time hours but have flexibility in terms of when I start and finish for the day. I can also work from home at short notice, but I usually do so once or twice a week. Last year, I was able to take a period of time off between roles and actively choose my next move.

What does flexible working allow you to do? 

First and foremost, it gives me a change of scenery, but secondly, it allows me to pursue my passion for baking.

What do you get from it on a personal level?

As a whole, flexible working allows me to come up for air and continually assess where I am and what I’m doing to make sure I’m happy.
Having hobbies is also really important to me so I want a job that allows me to make time for them. I’ve made friends through joining a local ultimate Frisbee team and learned so much about the art of baking through making birthday cakes for friends and family, and writing my own recipes. I even got through to the final round of a prestigious cooking competition last year during a break between projects.

What skills have you learned as a result that feedback into your role as a CTO?

How to push through even when things are going badly and you’re in what I like to call a ‘mental death spiral’. Teamwork requires you to support others and be positive – there’s no time for negativity and wallowing.

Also, the methodological process of baking is not dissimilar from when I’m writing complex code. For example, I made budgie biscuits which took days to master the decorative icing; eventually I cracked it and they turned out great. The humble (and somewhat straightforward) Swiss Roll however, has thus far eluded me – not sure what that might say about my brain.

Your role requires you to build teams and retain talent, what, in your opinion, can companies do better to accommodate this?
Trust and transparency which works both ways; if you’re trusted to work from home then you’re more likely to be an open, honest and productive employee. By restricting someone’s movements by time or place, I think it sets a bad example and starts from a position of distrust.

How do you think Juggle has benefited from your extra-curricular activities?
Mainly the cake, but I’m also a great team player and natural problem-solver, which is needed in early-stage startups.

Do you think you’ll ever not work flexibly?
No, I’ve had the taste of the good life, so I can’t see myself going back to fixed hours or location.

Part of the new ‘Getting to know you’ series – Follow us to be kept up-to-date on the next segment and other articles from Juggle 

Juggle is listed as one of Recruiter.com’s “Top 10 HR Tech Start-Ups”: Top 10 HR Tech Start-Ups (Recruiter.com)

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