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"They gave me a chance": Julia Seymour, YES

It’s funny being asked to write something for Family Friendly Working Scotland. My family have now left home, and family life now mostly consists of a dog and cat.

However, no matter what age you are you still have family, and your life has an impact on that family. Being able to let your children go on to do their own thing without having to worry about Mum too often is a weight off their mind, they don’t have a Mum who is at home all the time alone.

I’m 55, disabled by a long-term back problem which has been joined by arthritis, which causes a lot of pain. I’m never without pain unless I’m asleep, which I have problems doing. When I was fifty, I was pretty much resigned to being at home alone for the rest of my life; washed up, on benefits, with no thoughts of being able to do a job.

I had been out of the workplace for twenty years, and work back then was good but also left me feeling worthless, depressed and full of stress and anxiety. When I tell young people now how working life was, they are horrified. I had an undiagnosed bad back already in my early 20’s, which occasionally meant being unable to work. This didn’t stop managers expecting you to carry around twenty mugs of boiling tea down flight of stairs or refusing you time off for your Grandad’s funeral. There was very little understanding, and managers gave very little support. Thankfully, things have moved forward since then.

YES gave me a chance after being out of work for twenty years, and I can't thank them enough. I have been there four and a half years now, and my friends don’t recognise me. I am now Fundraising Executive and have my self-respect back. I feel I am a productive member of society and an asset to Young Enterprise Scotland’s workforce, something I never believed possible considering my disability.

Flexible working has been key to keeping me working and contributing at Young Enterprise Scotland. I still have pain and trouble sleeping; at times I'm hardly able to walk. However, I know that if I have a flare up, or a day when I can't really function, I know I can work from home or change my work days at the last minute.

I am proud to say I work for YE Scotland, proud of what we do; and the positivity we have inspires some of the most disadvantaged young people and gives them a chance. The flexibility we are afforded is paid forward to the organisation, in the form of a team who is less stressed, gives 110% and has a positive ‘can do’ attitude. Mums aren’t missing sports days, Dads aren’t missing school plays. If your child is ill, you can work from home without the stress of having to explain yourself.

Flexibility towards your staff pays dividends; they give more, they give extra. I believe it is because the respect and trust you are given to achieve your hours flexibly means you give that back with more. That horrible, resentful feeling you have when you are working and missing something important to you isn’t good for your motivation, any more than trying to work through a flare up of pain.

For me, even just knowing that I have the option there to alter my working pattern can alleviate stress and that in itself can help pain. We are a small team with big ambitions, so we are always very busy; being very busy usually translates into stress. Because we have flexibility and communication, that doesn't happen.

If you build flexibility into the workplace from the management down and back up again, you will have a more willing, happier and more productive workforce. I know for me, and my cat and dog family, the change over the last 4 ½ years has been incredible.

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