Juliet: Returning to architecture with flexible working arrangements
I was employee number 4 at David Morley Architects and worked there for two years until my first maternity leave. As I was going on leave, I told the partners that I would be taking a year of leave and they indicated that they thought it would be hard for me to come back part-time after that.
Actually, my break lasted for five years during which I had a second child, renovated a house (using all my architect’s skills) and took an additional training in horticulture. As my husband is also an architect, I was able to stay connected to the field and kept up with my network.
While preparing to return to work I wrote to my old firm to request a reference, not thinking for a moment that they would have me back. So, I was completely taken by surprise when they offered me a job! Rather than let me go they agreed that I could return on a 3 day a week basis. They knew the quality of my work and didn’t want to lose my knowledge of the how the practice operated, my fit with the people and their earlier investment in me. The firm had by then grown to 30 people and there was plenty of work that I could contribute to.
Over the next few years my working arrangements have varied according to the stages of my children’s development. For a while I did 3 days’ work spread over 5 days, then I worked 4 short days while being paid for 3.5. My working arrangements are now not unusual at David Morley Architects which prides itself on being a great place for people to work and recognises how efficient people who work flexibly are.
My advice to others returning to work after a break is:
- People forget that you’ve had a break much more quickly than you do
- If your diary says where you are, nobody notices that you aren’t in the office full time
- Accept that you will have different roles and projects than if you hadn’t taken a break, at least initially. If you are working part-time, some jobs won’t be possible
- Don’t be afraid to steer yourself where you know you can work best