Are two jobs better than one?

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Working flexibly gives variety to a working week and it means you can fulfil two passions. And, with employers and employees both waking up to the advantages, it’s a trend on the rise, says Louisa Pritchard

Nina Pottell loves her job. She’s spent nearly 25 years as a hairdresser, building up a loyal client base and some serious cutting skills. Yet the reason she loves the job is because she also has another one: as a professional book blogger. “I couldn’t work five days a week doing the same role,” says Nina, 44, from London.

“While I absolutely love hairdressing, book blogging and writing have become a huge part of my life and this means the balance between my two jobs – I work four days a week as a hairdresser and two days a week as a blogger – makes me better at both.”

Nina is one of a growing number of people (around 1.2 million of us, according to a recent Labour Force Survey) leading the charge for a new way of working. And this desire to work flexibly, long viewed as something only on offer for parents to fit around nursery pick-ups and school runs, is on the rise. Recent figures back this up: research from Timewise, a business that focuses on growing the UK’s flexible jobs market, found that 8.7 million of us are looking for flexibility in our next role.

The fact we want this should come as no surprise. Longer hours, coupled with the 9-5 (or longer) daily slog makes many of us question how we work. According to Investors In People research last year, 60 per cent of us are unhappy at work. Added to this, we want more emotional satisfaction from our week, rather than being on a salaried hamster wheel, to which we’re constantly connected. (Yes, we’re looking at you, checking and responding to work emails at 10pm, 11pm, 1am…) A 2013 study from Regus found 69 per cent of employees pointed to flexible working as critical in easing work-related stress. Short of quitting our jobs entirely, we’re increasingly looking for a new way, namely flexible – multi – working.

A second job can mean anything. It can satisfy two different sides to you. It can be a “money” job and a “passion” job. You could be a chartered surveyor who wants to work as a videographer; a part-time personal trainer with an Etsy business; or a someone like Nina, who wants to pursue her other dream of being a writer.

Nina is one of the growing number of people (around 1.2 million of us, according to a recent Labour Force Survey) leading the charge for a new way of working

“Work has changed and life has changed – technology, office real-estate costs and long commutes have forced businesses and employees alike to question whether work is a place they go to or a thing that they do,” says Karen Mattison, joint CEO at Timewise.

“Do you need to spend two hours a day commuting, five days a week, to do your job? With businesses, do you need everyone in an expensive building in central London to deliver what your clients need? In asking these questions – in particular from the perspective of the benefit to the business – what has happened is that employees have felt more able to have this conversation, because it has in some ways been de-stigmatised.” She’s right. While flexible working has had a bad reputation in the past – research from professional services firm EY found that about one in 10 workers said they’d “suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule” – the good news is that the world is changing… and it’s becoming more acceptable to negotiate part-time and flexi working.

“So much of the way we are measured in our working world is by input, rather than output,” says Karen. “Managers often feel those who are 'visible' at their desks five days a week are those who can be relied upon by default. Yet speak to the bosses of high-performing part-time workers and you will find that what they deliver is results. When I talk to high-performing part-time and flexible workers, they tell me that mixing up where and when they work gives them a renewed energy and focus.” Which is a huge benefit for you AND your boss, right?

So, how can you go about jumping on the flexible working train? According to Karen, if you want flexibility in your current job, the process is pretty straightforward, as the law states that anybody can now request a flexible working pattern, for any reason. “The business has the right to refuse, of course, but there has to be a valid business reason. I always advise people who want to request to move to a flexible working pattern to think about the business case and how the job could work – does it need redesigning or not? Help your manager by doing the thinking ahead.” Similarly, if you’re about to apply for a job and want to work flexible hours into the discussions, EY has some great advice here on how best to approach it.

Despite the shift, there is some way to go. While academics at Lancaster University believe the trend for flexible working will grow sharply, with more than 50 per cent of businesses adopting it by the end of next year, just 6.2 per cent of quality roles still advertised make any mention of part-time or flexible-working options.

There are, however, employers who have listened and, at EY, flexible working is part of the culture. The majority of people there have some kind of informal flexible arrangements that enable them to balance both client and personal commitments. It’s paid off, with an increase in staff retention and a 27 per cent increase in applications.

Senior manager Elena Balabanova is one employee with two roles. She works four days a week at EY and one day a week as a yoga teacher and health coach. “There are many parts of my corporate work that I really enjoy,” she says. “I think I would get bored just teaching yoga full-time, so a mix of the two works really well for me. It helps if I feel stressed with office work and helps me to be more focused on the four days I work at EY.”

And what about well-documented pitfalls to flexible working? That fewer days can mean cramming five days work into four, for example? Elena advises setting firm boundaries to avoid this: “I’ll still check my corporate emails on the day I’m teaching, but I’ll only reply if it’s really urgent. It’s important to let people know your limits and it’s great to be working for a company where they are respected.”

This article is in collaboration with The Pool. You can read the original article on The Pool's website, here.

Find out more about EY's approach to flexible working, here.

Louisa Pritchard
  • Louisa Pritchard

About the author

Former Grazia magazine Features Director, now freelance journalist and contributor to The Pool, specialising in women's issues, fertility, parenting, health, social trends and world news.