What is Flex Appeal?
There are a few questions we regularly get asked about #flexappeal, so Papa Pukka sat down to be interviewed by his sceptical alter ego.
SAE: What the chuff is a Flex Appeal then?
PP: Flex Appeal is us parping on about flexible working, and why it’s a good thing: for businesses and for anyone who works or is looking for work. While it becomes a crunch issue when you become a parent – and disproportionately affects mothers – it’s just as valuable to anyone from first jobbers to CEOs.
Sounds like a load of InstaSPAM to me.
There’s no need to be like that. Our goal is simple and twofold:
ONE: Convince businesses to trial flexible working (properly) and be more open to requests.
TWO: Make people aware of their rights and encourage them to make the case for flexible working.
How’s twatting about in a leotard going to help?
We do #flexappeal flash mobs to raise awareness about flexible working and hopefully encourage people to ask what it is and why it matters. These involve us pitching up in town centres, dressed in brightly coloured athleisure, singing a song called ‘Let’s Talk About Flex’, to the tune of Salt n Peppa’s ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’. Everyone is welcome to join, and if the numbers are high enough (we usually get a few hundred) that gets attention from local press and even occasionally TV. We’ve been to Trafalgar Square in London, to Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Bristol and want to do more, including Parliament Square. In a very juvenile way, the fact that ‘flex’ rhymes with ‘sex’ helps to get people’s attention.
How much are they paying you?
There is no mysterious ‘they’, beyond conspiracy theory websites. Most of what we do for flexappeal is done for nowt (other than the belief that it’s one practical way that life in the UK can be improved and the hope that working practices might be better by the time our nippers start work). In 2017 we had a three-month sponsorship deal with Regus, which seemed a good fit as they offer flexible working spaces and – from what we could tell when speaking to their staff – are very open to flexible working themselves. The money helped to cover things like travel, overnight stays, permits, insurance, hiring a cameraman, and a few hundred T-shirts for flash-mobbers. In return, they got to put their logo on some T-Shirts and at the end of any videos we made. The contract stipulates that we can’t talk numbers but, while we won’t be retiring off the back of it, it covered our flexappeal costs for that period. Generally, doing it costs us money.
Sounds a bit worthy. Why the chuff are you bothering?
Thanks, we think it is worthwhile. The Equality and Human Rights Commission estimates that 54,000 new mothers lose their jobs across Britain every year – almost twice the number identified in 2005. That removes skills from the economy and taxes from the exchequer. Lack of flexibility – and the idea that mums are a hassle to employ – is the main problem. Motherhood is a significant driver of the gender pay gap, as women tend to have babies in their late 20s and early 30s, just as they’re approaching their career peak, and find that employer inflexibility limits their options. We have some of the lowest rates of productivity in the developed world, and flexible working is a proven catalyst for higher productivity. Also: we like working that way.
Meh. Nothing’s going to change though, is it?
Any big shift in public opinion tends to go through a period of outright resistance, followed by scepticism, followed by consideration, acceptance and then advocacy. People resisted the idea of weekends, paid holiday and votes for women. Trying to deny them now seems pretty barbaric.
Consider gay marriage. As a kid in the late 80s I probably thought the idea was a bit weird, largely influenced by the grown-ups around me. As a teen in the late 90s I was pretty ambivalent. By the early 00s I got to, ’well, there’s no reason why not’, before settling on, ‘seems pretty daft that’s not allowed, why’s it taking so long?’ That probably matches broader UK public opinion.
There’s a quote we tend to overuse by the writer Douglas Coupland: “The nine to five is barbaric. I think one day we will look back at nine-to-five employment in a similar way to how we see child labour in the 19th century.” As more people get to the advocacy stage, they can nudge more out of the resistance stage.
Ooh, look at you, giving it all the virtue signalling and the writer-quoting. You’re just doing this to get followers you shallow-faced ball-bags.
Oh dear, things are descending. We’re mostly doing it because we’re a bit stubborn. With childcare costs and commuting times, we found it impossible to both be in full time work. But we both needed to be in full time work to do mundane things like feed our children and pay the mortgage, so both went freelance and started Mother Pukka on the side. It got us fired up, and Anna in particular. If people follow us to hear more about it, all the better. The more people that are involved in the conversation, the more people are likely to push for flexible working. And, schmaltzy as this may sound, we don’t want our daughters to have to decide between earning money and raising kids.
Oh, think of the children! I bet you’re one of those types with three kinds of decanted olive oil, aren’t you?
I’ve got some Bertoli from the corner shop.
More on flexappeal
We’ve created a Facebook group for people to share stories of Flexible Working (good and bad). It’s a closed group that you can join here.
Advice for staff on their rights and making the case:
Advice for employers on how flex can help productivity and profits:
Written by: Matt Farquharson.