Is slimming down the key to success?

Bonobo leadership style

Working mothers

by Ingrid Smolders, &samhoud consultancy

Working mothers at &samhoud follow the school holidays

One benefit of working in education is the holiday schedule of about 9 to 10 weeks every year. At the consultancy firm &samhoud working mothers with young children will also stick to the school holidays. This was the outcome of discussions held between managing partner Ingrid Smolders, herself mother of two children, and her fellow consultants who are also mums.

“At &samhoud we recruit highly gifted staff, people who fit the vision of our consultancy firm” according to Smolders. “Their quality is that they can achieve breakthroughs by inspiring and connecting people. They are management consultants and in this profession you often work long and intensive days. This applies to everyone, so also to women who have small children at home. I think it’s important that these women also continue to develop. After all, they are excellent consultants as well. We had agreed before that mothers working at &samhoud are provided with an ultra lightweight laptop. Because how often do working mothers seemingly carry all their worldly belongings when their children need to be taken to or picked up from school or nursery.

Together with the group of mothers working at &samhoud Smolders took a closer look at the existing needs. Mothers at &samhoud who have young children all work part-time. But in practice it seems that they fit a full-time working week into their working days, so 40 hours or even more than that.

Smolders: “Next to their work they also want to have spare time and when I suggested that they should then take some annual leave, they looked surprised at first. They had not considered taking annual leave regularly to be an option. By comparing their actual working hours with their contractual working hours we came to a simple conclusion. The overtime can easily be compensated by time off – in fact the same days that the children are not in school. So we established that mothers at &samhoud will follow their children’s holiday schedule from now on. It’s a case of planning hours and projects well internally. Besides, it saves a lot of hassle of having to organise child care during the holidays for when you need to go to work.”

The arrangement for working mothers fully fits in &samhoud’s culture where the work-life balance is always being considered. “Everyone loses out when motivation for work is lost because things can no longer be organized at home” according to Ingrid Smolders. “As the employer you need to also consider your staff’s living conditions outside the office walls. Every person is different. For example, for young fathers we introduced paternity leave three years ago. The father stays at home for the first two months after the birth, fully paid.”

“Taking a personal approach with your people leads not only to individual applications of working conditions, it also contributes to your co-workers’ self-awareness” notes Smolders. “We discovered that working mothers at &samhoud struggle to claim things for themselves. That mental sting has now been removed. So from an employer’s point of view we do everything we can to enable the combination of motherhood and hard work, but we also encourage these women by being proactive in asking them about these matters and in researching and using opportunities ourselves. This empowers them a great deal.”

“You know that on every front working mothers need to take on a lot. With this arrangement we meet their needs appropriately” Smolders concludes.

The productivity of employees raises when work life balance is secured. Different people have different needs. It’s up to an employer to meet those individual needs in order to develop talented people.

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