Time to meet our second #WorkThatWorks Ambassador, the amazing Holly Tucker MBE. Holly is Co-Founder and Chief Inspirator at notonthehighstreet.com, UK Ambassador for Creative Small Businesses and founder of Holly & Co. We caught up with Holly recently on all things #WorkThatWorks.
We’re super excited to have you on Team #WorkThatWorks, tell us why you're supporting our #WorkThatWorks Movement.
I love this whole concept and the fact Digital Mums has even changed how we refer to it! 'Flexible working’ seems to sometimes feel as if you are giving less, or maybe it is just some of the negative stigmas attached to it. #WorkThatWorks feels very strong and positive, and just by saying the name, you’re reminded of something we tend to forget. Work should ‘work’ within your life and that ‘work’ isn’t your life. Being able to place work within the balance of the rest of your life has a very positive impact on living.
Right now in the UK not enough mums have access to flexible working. At Digital Mums we hear from women who are doing lower skilled work just to get flexibility. That's a lot of missing talent for businesses. What needs to change?
Everyone should offer #WorkThatWorks roles within their businesses. Of course it would be naive to think that all roles could operate within these parameters, but any business that could support this type of working arrangement should. There should be targets in place to help promote and incentivise businesses to meet a quota of roles that support women getting back into work, or any parent trying to prioritise balance within their worlds.
From UK Ambassador for Creative Small Business to www.notonthehighstreet.com and now Holly & Co. you are one busy lady. What's an average week for Holly Tucker right now?
My week has never been more varied and I have never been happier. It can contain anything from a talk somewhere in the country helping to inspire entrepreneurialism, to a meeting at No 10 where we discuss how we help UK small businesses grow creatively. I'm still Co-Founder and Chief Inspirator at notonthehighstreet.com so I attend monthly board meetings and other events there too. Then there is Holly & Co., which is an advice and inspiration platform for artisans and is working my ‘start up’ muscle again. This role sees my fingers in all pies! From finance meetings, to interviewing to get the right team, to buying furniture for my physical space (launching in January). My week is normally full of things I have never done before and I love that.
What does #WorkThatWorks look like at notonthehighstreet.com and Holly & Co.?
Notonthehighstreet.com supports flexible working at HQ wherever possible. They understand that talent simply doesn't just come in a square package of 9 to 5. And obviously for the 5,000 businesses who sell through the site, that is the ultimate way to bring flexible working into your life. At Holly and Co. I have six women who work for me. Half are working in a way that is flexible and it has been nothing but a joy. If people love the company they are working for and the business is supporting a more positive way of their employee living, they will give you more.
What about your own personal #WorkThatWorks story?
Now onto my second business, I very much value, and am trying to prioritise, #WorkThatWorks in my life. One way I am doing this is inviting my family to be more involved in Holly & Co. and so that is why there is a desk for my husband and son Harry, 11, in the office. It allows them to come and have a change of scenery, and be with me on this journey of building my next business. It’s exciting and I want to share it.
I am also working up to being able to do a four day week. I'm hoping to implement this in 2017 as it’s important that, now in my second decade of building businesses, that I do not get myself into a 24 hour, 7 day a week scenario! I always try to be at home by 5pm to do ‘homework hour’ with my son. Being able to be there for him, as he is entering secondary school means the world!
Any practical tips on making flexible working work for a business or personally?
Just drop the guilt, full stop. We tend to live in this fog of guilt and it is such a negative use of energy. If you give everything and try and make this work, it will work. If you are employed in this capacity the employer knew of your circumstances. If you work for yourself, you are working for the hardest boss there is anyhow, so you know you are giving your all. But don’t forget ‘why’ you are working for yourself. It was probably to allow flexibility in your life. You have to have discipline to make sure it is a priority.
We read that notonthehighstreet.com almost didn’t happen (God forbid!) because of the crazy costs of
childcare. Tell us more and also what you think needs to change to help mums today...
The early years were certainly a struggle that I would never want to repeat. My co-founder Sophie Cornish and I both had other halves for whom there was no such thing as flexible working. This proved to be hard when the business was 24/7. The only way that it could work was for us both to have nannies who helped us during the day and early evening. The issue was we were not being paid and so living on one wage and the cost of another to ‘make it work’ was incredibly stressful. The alternative was that we gave up and didn’t create notonthehighstreet.com and that was not an option for us.
We felt very alone in the brunt of this challenge. We worked out that all in all you had to earn £40K a year alone to afford childcare and costs of living, and seeing as we could not afford to put ourselves on a salary of £20K for years and years, it was a tough period of time.
Could it be an idea for mums now to be able to apply for a loan with highly reasonable small print, for support as they ‘fire up’ a start up? A loan specifically there to support the scenario I lay out above? I can only imagine how many people can not see a start up through, due to the issue that childcare brings.
Finally you’re Prime Minister for the day, what changes would you make to help more mums back to work?
I'd be far more open about the whole subject. As the Prime Minister, I’d use my position to inspire and empathise. What women really need is a vote of confidence: a Prime Minister, a peer or a business leader to remind them that their skills are valued and vital in today’s workplace. But beyond that mums need encouragement, support and advice that is utterly tailored to them.
Maybe businesses should have to offer training programmes to help mothers return to work. During this programme I am sure aspirations will change dramatically. It could include a panel of women managers who talk about achieving a good work/life balance and also show the changes in the industry over the past five years that support them.
I think it is a good idea to offer maternity coaching at the earliest stage, and to discuss possible ways to keep the soon-to-be mother involved and informed whilst she’s away. To even organise a monthly social — such as a team meal — to keep the sense of inclusion high, whilst they are away. If your mums still feel like part of the team when they’re on maternity leave, they’re far more likely to return afterwards - and that's #WorkThatWorks right there.