A refreshing perspective of working from home and becoming an entrepreneur, by my husband, Dominic Wong, who has recently left the 9-5 to start his own business.
Have you recently thought about moving jobs? How long have you been at your current employer? It is becoming increasingly normal for today’s workforce to change jobs regularly. Statistics from various governmental bodies around the world suggest that the duration of those staying in their jobs is rapidly decreasing - falling to an average of fewer than three years from just over 4 years a few years back.
Go back a generation or two and the norm was you had one job for life. Employers are constantly trying new ways to retain staff - after all, according to a study by Oxford Economics, it costs around £30k to replace a staff member. Flexible working is one avenue that employers are increasingly looking at - London & Partners trialled temporary office desks to encourage employees to work out of the office, Netflix and Virgin received much publicity when they created a policy with limitless annual leave. However, the criticisms leveled at these new initiatives are evident that working from home is still stigmatized. Working from home is said with air quotes and treated with a sneer.
It is no wonder then that so many people are looking for alternative careers, particularly among parents with the ever-rising cost of living and childcare costs. The economic contribution of businesses started by mums is growing to exponential levels. According to Management Today, businesses owned by women with children under 18 contributed £7.2bn to the UK economy in 2014, a 30% increase on 2011. These are businesswomen who are juggling the everyday demands of a family with creating commerce. This is no mean feat, as I have witnessed over the last eight years when my wife (Erin, Founder of Making Mumpreneurs) left her 9-5 job to become a mumpreneur after having our first child.
I’ve seen her on highs as she rides on her success. I have seen her on lows when things didn’t quite go to plan. The cliched roller coaster of emotions is none so evident than in an entrepreneur who is putting their heart and soul, blood and tears into everything they do. Every battle is personal because it is a very personal journey. I have watched as she struggled to get the work / life balance right, but when she does it is so valuable for the whole family and cherished by the kids.
I don't want to be a weekend dad
It is not surprising that us dads are looking on with envy. Flexible working, spending more time with the kids and not having The Boss breathing down our necks. I used to work in a high pressure environment and I often left home before the kids were up and came home when they were in bed. Traveling also meant I didn’t see them for days at a time, and experienced the stress of not being physically there to help when my wife was struggling. I decided I didn’t want to be a weekend dad, I wanted to be there more often for both my wife and my kids. And looking at the jobs market, it is not easy to find companies offering a better work / life balance. According to a CBI report, just one in ten job adverts mention flexible working, despite more than half of employers offering it, meaning they miss out on a wider pool of applicants and leave those dads wanting a better work/life balance to look for alternatives.
Taking the leap
I’ve loved seeing the kids being with their mum after school, I’ve been grateful that she was able to sort household stuff out whilst she was at home and I’m glad school holidays were easier because we didn’t have to find constant childcare. On our return from Abu Dhabi, I decided to start my own business (Dadpreneur?!) I created a consultancy agency called Minds Ignited that writes bespoke educational programmes for leisure venues (visitor attractions, theme parks, theatres etc) that want to increase their visitor numbers through schools. It means focusing on all the things I loved in my professional career. It means being my own boss. It means being there for my family.
Whereas before I started my business, my wife would have to plan her day around the kids to work out when she can focus on growing her business. Now we can take it in turns - for example one morning I may take the kids to school whilst she can work on her business, and vice versa the following day. When either of us have deadlines or a heavier workload, we can adapt and change things around. It is effective time management and so far it seems to be working. This worked very well during half term, where we took it turns to look after the kids during the day whilst the other one could work. It was always a bonus when we took time out to both be with the kids at the same time!
Having two entrepreneurs in the family has its challenges - the uncertainty of income is the main one - but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Just the other day I took my youngest out for an impromptu teddy bears picnic whilst my wife had her work time. I also love that I get to spend more time with my wife - even if that’s only sharing a cup of tea whilst having our computers out on the dining room table.
That’s what I call a good work / life balance.
Dominic Wong is the co-founder of Minds Ignited - a boutique agency that writes bespoke educational programmes for leisure venues. He also runs a private Facebook group for Education Managers and School Marketers to discuss, collaborate and share ideas.