I was chatting recently with some female colleagues, and we got to talking about flexible working. In particular, we talked about some of those negative perceptions of people who work flexibly, especially those who work from home for some of the time. Flexism.
The idea that we are skiving. That somehow we are less committed. That it’s alright for some. That we are probably watching Homes Under the Hammer. We talked about how when we do work from home, we feel that we do deeper, more focused work. We are more productive, without the constant disruptions of office life. We have time to think, plan, create.
And then one of my colleagues said…. ‘well of course, I also do the washing’.
One by one we all agreed. One of the key benefits of working from home is getting your washing done.
A conversation of epic domesticity followed. Get a load in first thing. Get it on the line at lunch. If you are organised, you can get two loads done and dry in a day. The joy! Each of us nodded along, completely understanding because we do it too.
Behind the humour, a serious point. This is just another small way in which domestic labour falling on women is taken for granted. Another small way in which we are constantly balancing the work stuff and the life stuff. Fitting it in. Because this is where the bulk of it still falls. On women.
Back to the myths and the stereotypes of flexible working. All too often we see flexible working through the ‘family friendly’ lens. It’s something that mums want, when their children are young. It’s something that skivers want too. We don’t think about it as being for wellbeing, inclusion, talent attraction and retention, engagement, a potential key to tackling the gender pay gap.
We got it wrong. Turns out, flexible working is for people who want to do the laundry.