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Katja's flexible working story

In this Q&A, we speak with Katja Alissa Mueller, a Swiss-born, London-based creative leader who advocates for flexible workplaces and leading with empathy and joy.

23rd May 2024

Flexible working has transformed the way we live and work, giving us the freedom and balance we've all been craving. It lets people tailor their schedules to fit their unique lifestyles, working how and where they want. To find out more about the impact of remote and flexible work arrangements, we're sharing real success stories from those who have experienced the benefits firsthand.

Name: Katja Alissa Mueller

Job role: Design Leader and Creative Manager

What’s your flexible working set up? Remote-first with flexible office days

1. How has flexible working improved your productivity and job satisfaction?

In a nutshell, enormously. I am more efficient and focused, my listening skills have improved, and I can prioritise better than ever before. Working flexibly enables you to respond to highs and lows and allocate your energy appropriately. Taking breaks, going for a walk, or doing something new replaces the pitfalls caused by presenteeism. Flexible work increases self- awareness, autonomy, confidence, and motivation, leading to higher job satisfaction.

2. Can you share specific examples of how flexible working has made it easier to manage your personal and professional responsibilities?

The most significant aspect is that it promotes overall well-being. In my situation, living with hidden chronic illnesses allows me to arrange medical appointments conveniently, work with my energy rather than against it, and thus boost my work holistically - from leadership to productivity to strategic thinking. Working flexibly also includes having options about where to work. You'll recognise the benefits if you are like me and need quiet time without distractions to work on certain projects. I never want to return to that open-plan an office with the ping-pong table ever again. 

3. Have you experienced any challenges or obstacles related to flexible working, and if so, how have you overcome them?

Flexible work requires a different mindset. And, like with everything new, you'll need to retrain your brain to adapt. However, once you've worked in a flexible organisation that values async and agile processes, you'll understand that productivity, creativity, and fulfilment can shift to a whole new level. The main challenge I had to face and overcome quickly was self-discipline. I've had to learn to structure my day, schedule breaks, and set clear boundaries. For example, I don't want to be added to work WhatsApp groups. I keep my phone private, interact via Slack and other communication channels, and don't allow the professional to spill over too much into the personal. Ever got a WhatsApp on a weekend? Exactly, it is anxiety- inducing. I guess this is an excellent rule for any work environment. A second challenge is communication gaps: this instilled in me the leadership styles of macro-management (let people do what they do best) and micro-communication. You have to improve your listening skills, communicate more effectively, and make your requests and deliverables crystal clear. Regular check-ins, the right collaboration tools, and clear async workflows will solve those challenges. For me, the benefits of flexible working far outweigh the obstacles.

4. How do you think flexible working has contributed to your career growth and development?

It played a crucial role. When I was diagnosed with chronic illness, I thought it was the end of it. No more creative career, no possibilities to work in a way that supports my health, only stagnation on the horizon. The stigma around illnesses in the creative industry didn’t help either. Looking back, it had the opposite effect. It made me an advocate for flexible work environments and improved in many areas. I developed a growth mindset that enhanced my adaptability and resilience. The experience prompted me to reconsider my career goals and values. It catalysed self-reflection and personal growth. I became a better design leader. I have greater empathy and am a better listener. My self-discipline, time management, and organisational skills are on a new level. As a leader, I aim to inspire teams to succeed while simultaneously promoting their well-being. Working during your most energetic hours and in a pleasant environment boosts productivity and output. Working in various settings and at different times made me more creative, innovative, and open to ideas. Flexible working has supported both my health and the professional growth of myself and those I lead.

5. If you work for yourself, how has flexible working helped with this?

I work interim as a freelancer until my next perm role comes along. However, flexible working is never just a convenience. Its benefits are highly valuable, whether you are employed or run your own thing. For me, it means:

  • Autonomy: I have more control over my schedule and responsibilities. I can tap into my energy levels and personal commitments, which leads to increased productivity and efficiency at work.
  • Life and work: As a creative, the personal and professional can blur. While boundaries are crucial, flexible work allows me to blend life and work more seamlessly without guilt. I go for that walk in the sun, the yoga session,
    that longer lunch with an old friend, and pick things up afterward. It’s all about finding the right life-work balance.
  • Growth opportunities: Being more flexible means I have scope to work globally. I’m highly adaptable, and I have the capacity to engage with the world and learn about cultural shifts, contemporary culture, politics, etc. Being in rigid structures can tie you to a status quo, a place that doesn’t allow innovation and vision to flourish.

In summary, flexible working is not just a perk of freelancing; it's a a fundamental aspect of how I operate and thrive as a professional. It empowers me to maximise my potential, deliver exceptional results, and lead a fulfilling career on my terms.

Katja Alissa Mueller is a Swiss-born, London-based cross-functional design leader and creative manager who loves problem-solving and in-house environments. She has 18 years of experience in the creative industry, 9 of which have been in leadership and management positions. Creating flexible workplaces and leading with empathy and joy are at the core of her values.


Linkedin: /katjaalissamueller

Instagram: @katjaalissamueller

Share your flexible working story with us! 

We want to hear how flexible working has transformed your life. Tell us about the challenges you've overcome, the benefits you've enjoyed, and the impact it has had on your daily routine. Your insights can inspire others on their journey towards a more flexible and fulfilling work life. If you're interested, you can answer our quick survey here, and we'll get back to you to learn more about your experience.