Flexible working enables me to be an ultra-runner, Dad, and CTO

Normalise flexible work

4th Mar 2021

Hi there! As part of our campaign to #NormaliseFlexibleWork we are publishing a series of interviews with brilliant people for whom flexible working is key to success.

We believe that flexible working should be for everyone, but there are still dated perceptions and stigmas around flexible working that we desperately want to shift. Without offering flexible working to everyone, we can’t achieve true equality as there will be a “normal” way of working for most people and those who can’t work “normally” will be treated differently and “othered”.

Today we are delighted to be featuring John, who can only be described as an overachiever in work, in family life, and in extreme athletics. Read on to see how working flexibly is crucial to his success and his sanity!

Can you introduce yourself and what you do (professionally and for fun!)?

I’m a father of four, the CTO and a co-founder of Envelop Risk, and a professional mountain ultra runner.

Why does flexible working matter to you?

The three main parts of my life (family, work, running) are all extremely demanding, and if everything were done in single continuous chunks of time it simply would not be possible to fit everything in. By breaking things into smaller chunks (e.g. work in 2 four hour blocks instead of 1 eight hour block) I can organise my schedule in a way that all the pieces fit around the small items that truly need to happen at a specific time and place (meetings, getting the kids to school, running before a storm moves in, etc.).

What has flexible working allowed you to do? Or what has a lack of flexibility stopped you from doing? I’ve been able to excel in areas of life that would normally seem incompatible. I can also do things at the times of day when I do them best - a lot of my best thinking happens after midnight, which doesn’t exactly fit the 9 to 5 schedule. For me, a traditional schedule tells me not only what I need to do, but what I can’t do with my remaining time. Flexibility allows me to complete the things I need to do and then have freedom in what I do with the rest of my time. 

Do you think that flexible working has historically been a female thing? If so, why? Or if not, why not? I think there’s likely some historical association of flexible work with childcare, which is historically associated with women. Both of those associations are entirely invalid today - there’s certainly nothing wrong with a mom wanting flexible working, but it’s also valid for a man or woman who wants to fit work around something entirely different, say, maybe ultra running.

What has your experience been with accessing flexible working?

I’ve been in leadership positions at startups for the past six years, so have had the rather fortunate benefit of being able to largely set my own schedule.

What do you think needs to change in terms of working environments? 

Performance metrics need to become much more focussed on actual results rather than on how long someone was sitting at a desk. It doesn’t matter to me when or where someone on our team gets something done - all that matters is that it gets done. Sometimes that requires being available at a certain time and place to work with the rest of the team, but most of the time it doesn’t.

What do you think has the biggest impact on flexible working uptake?

The perception not just at the corporate level but by the individuals seeking flexible work. A lot of people think they need some sort of “excuse” for it (why should I be allowed to not be in the office), when in reality the excuse needs to go the other way ( why do I need to be in the office at this specific time)? It gives people the opportunity to be more productive and more fulfilled, not to mention all the time and resources saved from avoiding unnecessary commutes.

Would you like to add anything else?

It can be a bit of a double edged sword - not having specific hours when work has to be done can make it feel like work should get done at any hour. Some plan for keeping things compartmentalised for work/life balance is extremely important.

We'll be publishing personal flexible working stories like John's all through March. Sign up to Flexa today to begin your own flexible working journey!

Photo credit to Jack Atkinson: you can check out Jack's great work on his website and on Instagram.