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Going back to school: Natalie Robson, Portfolio Manager, ourcambridge

I think being open to flexible working arrangements makes the University an even more attractive organisation to work for.

I started studying for a Law Degree through the Open University in February 2020 and didn’t want to slip into bad habits by worrying about finding time every evening to fit in studying once I got home from work. I asked my line manager, Kate Maxwell, if I could try an informal flexible working arrangement to balance my time better.

I considered working a compressed week but felt this would mean very long days so I eventually decided to propose a compressed fortnight. This means that I fit all of my working hours for a fortnight into nine days, having every other Friday as a non-working day. Kate was very supportive of the arrangement and I started to work the new schedule in March 2020. We both agreed to remain flexible once the work pattern had started and to review it if it wasn’t working.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a small effect on the arrangement, mostly because I have had to prioritise my workload in a different way to deal with urgent tasks. It has also benefitted me as the lack of commute means I can do the longer days and still have time for studying in the evening. Occasionally I have had to attend meetings or do tasks on my non-working day but that’s fine as I know I can take the time back when it is more convenient – flexibility is the key.

The main benefit to me is knowing that I have a full day once a fortnight to concentrate on my studying, which takes the pressure off having to cram it in in the evenings, after a busy day at work. It also gives me the freedom to do other things on my non-working days such as visiting family and horse riding.

I am now more focussed and therefore productive on the days that I am working because I know I have that dedicated day to catch up on studying – having a more productive and focussed employee can only be a benefit to the University. I think being open to flexible working arrangements make the University an even more attractive organisation to work for.