Author: Lauren Davis
During my time at CGI, I have been lucky that the company’s flexible and supportive return to work process has allowed me to successfully balance the needs of motherhood and my job.
I have taken two rounds of maternity leave with CGI. As a Project Manager, my return to work was staggered, starting at two days a week, before increasing to three, and now four, permanent days of work per week.
I really value the flexibility that is embedded into the work culture here. However my first return to work experience was very different to my second. Here is a little insight into my lessons learnt and why I think a flexible culture makes all the difference.
Return to work - Take One!
Post maternity leave, I was able to gradually increase my days over a period of months. As someone who really enjoys working, I was happy that CGI facilitated my dipping back into it at a comfortable pace.
To be honest, the biggest challenge I encountered the first time round was simply my own, self-imposed pressure on myself.
I had a preconceived idea of how much I should achieve in a week and was concerned I wouldn’t produce what was expected of me. I also felt I was letting people down because in some cases, they would have to wait for a day for me to get back to them.
I needn’t have worried about any of this though! My colleagues valued my contribution on the days I was there and we pulled together as a team to make sure that there were no gaps on the days that I was not.
Lessons Learnt - Take Two!
I was much easier on myself the second time. I was able to manage my own expectations of myself and I no longer feared that my colleagues would think I wasn’t pulling my weight. Furthermore, I didn’t feel guilty anymore about not working on days I was not supposed to be at work.
I knew from experience that as long as I was organised, I would be well supported by my team, particularly my manager. I structured workloads to reduce reliance on any single person, including myself, becoming a ‘critical path’. This ensured my colleagues were never held up waiting on me.
I was also far more confident proposing an incremental return to work because I now knew with certainty that it would result in a smooth re-start for me and CGI.
At CGI, the flexibility of the return to work process is ingrained throughout the entire company. It's pleasing to see it's not restricted to women returning from maternity leave. All employees are often given time off, or allowed to work on a part-time basis, so that they can also provide care for their families.
Flexibility goes beyond working hours
Although flexible working hours and return to work plans are important, having flexibility encouraged and accessible to all is how you really build a culture of flexibility.
In 2012, I was working for a company called Logica, when it was acquired by CGI. I was scheduled for long-service leave and planned to spend time working with a Non-Government organisation in Cambodia.
Despite the fact that we were right in the middle of an acquisition, CGI didn’t disrupt my plans at all. They even let me extend my leave, giving my husband and I the opportunity to spend 6 incredible months working with Sustainable Cambodia.
We helped to implement open source systems for document management and student information for their two schools, as well as improve their IT infrastructure.
We also cycled 26km through rice fields every Sunday to give swimming lessons – a definite highlight!
Our focus was on empowering and training their own “IT guy” as well as the school principal, to help improve the way they performed their roles. Employing and skilling local Cambodians, rather than using volunteers as free labour, is one of Sustainable Cambodia’s most important principles. This is an essential differentiator from short-term and often damaging ‘voluntourism’ in vulnerable countries. Being able to stretch my long service leave from 3 months to 6 was key to committing a useful period of time to Sustainable Cambodia.
Something I really appreciate at CGI is that every employee is actually given a day of paid volunteer leave. This encourages significant numbers of our people to take part in philanthropic events, like preparing food for food banks or planting trees.
Volunteering is such a great thing when done properly, and I feel so lucky to have had such a great experience of my own in Cambodia. I really value the fact that it is offered to us here on such a wide scale.