FLUID alumni and Built By Us supporters, sponsors, partners and volunteers, past and present were all welcomed to the BBU breakfast Mentoring Spring Social in May, hosted at the new London offices of David Chipperfield Architects, where we were welcomed and provided with a sensational breakfast, organised by Lilli Hoikka and her team.
The event began with a brief introduction to Built By Us by its Founder and Director Danna Walker, in which she reminded those present that the focus of the FLUID Diversity Mentoring Programme is on retention, development and leadership, taking practitioners at various stages of their journey, from a range of backgrounds, to support their personal and professional development, and also how it relies on the extraordinary volunteer mentors, some of whom had themselves been mentees previously on the programme.
The audience was then introduced to DCA’s newly appointed Managing Director, Harriet Miller, who welcomed everyone and outlined her plans for the increasingly important task of improving health and wellbeing in the workplace, at all levels in the company.
Tips on creating work life balance
Engineers Raynee De Zoysa of Galliford Try and Susie Diamond of Inkling were the guest speakers and together they shared their stories, experiences and tips for creating a better work life balance within the construction sector.
For Raynee, who has a young child, the challenge in becoming a new mother made her think very carefully about what she wanted from her career and she shared her thoughts about her need to feel free to work in a way that suited her as a mum but that also allowed her to continue to take on challenging projects and deliver them successfully, as this, for her, is what gives her career meaning. She said “For me autonomy over the nature of the work I do or style of working is so important in agile working and personally its career/ life balance, where I look at how I progress and better myself in both my chosen occupation and personal life. Storytelling will help make it easier for flexible working for all of us in the work place.”
“Speak up, don’t hide”
She advised members of the audience to speak up and not to hide; to share stories and experiences; adopt a positive mind set; to know your worth; not to be afraid to suggest a trial period if you’re unsure about a new career path or role, as this works both ways, for the employer and the employee. Her advice is to be honest and vocal about any reservations you might have; and to know that we continue to evolve in all our roles, that things change and we must change with them.
Susie Diamond is a Partner in her own consultancy, Inkling, which she set up in order to achieve a good work/life balance and be able to look after, and be there, for her two children.
“It’s important to build trust”
Her top tips, that she wished she had learned earlier, are that flexibility in the workplace is about trust and that the focus must always be on delivering good job outcomes. She advised always to be honest and upfront about personal obstacles and limitations, needs and priorities; that flexibility is inherently bespoke – flexible hours, part-time, job sharing, working from home etc. are all valuable tools. And also how important it is to offer proactive suggestions, but recognise the power of compromise because flexibility works both ways and fairness is subjective and circumstances change over time – so keep reviewing and listening. If your employer doesn’t trust you, ask yourself if you are in the right job? She also advocated getting senior - bad rules are there to be broken – asking permission doesn’t always work but if you do your job well fewer people will care about your methods; don’t accept part-time pay if you are delivering a full time job; role model good practice, and make the effort to give flexibility to your team; and finally to disconnect thinking of flexibility as a perk.
It should not be a perk to be enabled to do your job better. People do their best work when they are enjoying themselves. Loyalty and retention come from building trust with employees.