New ways of working for modern families 

Posted: Tuesday July 26 2016

By: Abbie Coleman

New ways of working for modern families 

Caitlin Hartley EY
By Caitlin Hartley, Assistant Director Global Indirect Tax & EY Family Network Co-chair

“But don’t you get distracted and end up watching the TV or doing the washing?”

That is the first question most people ask me when I tell them I am a formal homeworker.

Eleven years ago, when we had our first child, my husband gave up his job to look after our daughter . It was a no-brainer to us. I earned more and he didn’t like his job, so we didn’t really consider anything else. I took around six months maternity leave and then went back to my job full-time, while my husband immersed himself in looking after our daughter, enthusiastically joined the coffee group circuit, and took on most of the household chores.

Fast forward three years and, as I prepared to return from maternity leave for the second time, I pondered the feasibility of working from home full-time. My husband was still looking after the kids, and we weren’t planning on changing that, but my daily commute was an hour each way meaning that I was missing precious time with them.

We had the space for me to create a home office and were fortunate to have high-speed internet so I decided I had nothing to lose. Fortunately my employers were also really open to the idea and keen to make it work. I still travel for work, but now it is only as the business, my team and projects require, rather than just the daily commute.

On one occasion, travelling into an office I hadn’t visited before and not long after returning from my third and final maternity leave, I had to ask the security guard to point me in the direction of the medical room at lunchtime. “Are you diabetic?” he asked as he led me down a labyrinth of corridors. “No”, I replied, “I’m breastfeeding”. “What?” looking round in a panic, “where’s the baby?” Much relief and giggles all round, as I explained that I needed the room to express.

Eight years on, I’m still working from home and cannot really imagine working in the office full-time. Being a homeworker has taken some adjustment, particularly when I’m visiting the office. I use that time to network, for meetings and to catch up with colleagues, so ironically, I often put my out of office notifier on when I go into the office, so contacts know there might be a delay in responses.

So to answer the original question, no I don’t get distracted. In fact I effectively ‘gain’ two hours of my day which would otherwise have been spent commuting.. Working at home means I always have my husband’s back. For example, if one of the children is sick, he can leave them at home while he does the school run and I very rarely miss nativities, sports day or presentations at school. 

I’ve used my experience to make a positive impact at work too, where I co-chair our Family Network. As well as supporting colleagues at all stages of the journey to parenthood, the network provides opportunities for members to socialise, support each other and learn through seminars, workshops, socials and Christmas parties for the kids in most of our UK offices. Our aim is to make EY a great place to work for parents and families.

I am passionate about challenging, in a positive way, concerns about new ways of working as well as exploring possibilities for individuals and the business to ensure working patterns support the diverse needs of families of all shapes and sizes. I believe an engaged, empowered workforce is more productive and if businesses can get it right for parents, they will have longer serving, more loyal employees, thereby reducing the cost of new hires and stemming the loss of expertise when people leave.

Caitlin Hartley is a mum of three and co-chair of the EY Family Network.