Alan Thornburrow.

Scotland Director, Business in the Community 

Alan was formerly CEO of Scottish Investment Operations, a professional body focused on leadership development within financial services. He serves as Chairman of the Institute of Directors in Edinburgh & Lothian’s and was recently awarded an Honorary Professorship from Glasgow Caledonian University’s Glasgow School for Business and Society. He is former Vice Chairman of Career Ready in Scotland and a past board member of Action on Depression. Additionally, Alan is Session Clerk at Penicuik North Kirk and has been leading a project to widen access to finance in his local area partnering with a credit union. Outside of work he is married with four children and is a keen (and often injured!) long distance cyclist and runner and lover of the outdoors. With experience spanning youth employment, education, leadership and culture, he is particularly interested in the role of individuals and business in creating a fair society where opportunity is open to all.

How did you become interested in the area of family friendly working?

I became increasingly concerned that we are working longer (not necessarily more productive) hours as a society often at the expense of spending time with families and on other things we enjoy outside of work. Rapid advances in technology have accelerated this trend. I know I am often guilty of not switching off my phone for example or checking email over weekends. Culturally there is still an issue of presenteeism, of being seen to always be working hard and be busy. I often comment that the first thing people say when I meet them is how busy they are - surely that isn’t our modern measure of success.

How does family friendly working and flexibility benefit employers?

Our lives are undoubtedly more complex than ever. There are more demands on us from a work perspective and numerous calls on our time and attention beyond work. Achieving a degree of balance is vital as is getting appropriate rest. Employers are rightly recognising this and changing their approach to work with good reason; those employees who have a healthy approach to work life balance are often the one’s who are the most engaged and productive.

What does good work-life balance look like?

I don’t think there is a ideal approach but broadly speaking recognising when to draw barriers between elements of your life and be in the present is important. I work long hours due to the nature of my role and other non-executive commitments I have. I choose to take my children to school each day, go to work, be home for dinner and if needs be pick up with any unfinished business once they are in bed. As a rule I try not to work at weekends unless I need to. Similarly when I’m at work, that’s where I am and what I need to be engaged in. I love to cycle and run long distances and I make time to train either during the week and / or at weekends depending on what races and events I have coming up. I’m by no means fast in any of the events I compete in but they help me to have a healthy interest that’s just for me. Yes I’m a husband, father, employee and so on but I also need time for my own interests and hobbies. Ultimately, I think the more we learn to be in the present the better.

What three words best describe you?

Compassionate, enthusiastic, determined.

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