The daily juggle

At OFR Consultants we protect and promote our people, investing in them to ensure that they can manage their work and home lives effectively. This month, we announced a series of new initiatives for our OFR working parents, with increased maternity and shared parental leave pay. Here, we hear from three parents in our workforce who talk about their approach to juggling the family work-life balance.

The first timer: Liam Pallett, Principal Fire Engineer, OFR Consultants, Bath

Our Bath-based colleague Liam will become a parent for the first time this summer, at which point he’ll share the parental leave with his partner Addella. “A flexible employer has really helped as Addella and I prepare for parenthood.” Liam says. 

Liam’s been at OFR for five years now, something he says is down to his love of the company’s core values and principles: “I really enjoy working here; colleagues are helpful and considerate. The depth of knowledge that’s accessible within the business makes it a fantastic place to learn, be challenged and progress.”

“As I become a dad, knowing what the OFR policies are means that we’ve been able to put plans in place that will allow both of us to be around for the baby. Addella is going to take her leave for the first nine months, then I am going to do the final three months from March to June 2024. I am also taking an extra two weeks after paternity leave as annual leave to have more time at home.”

Liam says he’s felt empowered to take this decision without fear in the workplace. He adds: “It’s always been clear to me while working at OFR that family is the most important thing. “I have seen a lot of out of office messages from men over the last couple of years saying they are on parental leave, this helped me realise it is becoming more commonplace. 

“I’ve always naturally thought that parenting should be for everyone – not just ‘mum’ and this shared leave is something I really want to do. I’m really pleased that I get to do that with the support of my employer.”

The returner: Kate Swinburne, associate, OFR Consultants Edinburgh 

Kate Swinburne is a prominent figure at OFR in Scotland, overseeing our team in Edinburgh, supporting on projects across the country. Kate recently returned from maternity leave, having taken 12 months off for the birth of her second child. 

“I loved my time off – but equally it’s been a joy to come back to work.

“I enjoy being a fire engineer at OFR, and work is such an important part of my life. Being a mum is obviously important too, but it’s not who I am completely, and I need a mix of the two – that’s why OFR is such a great place for me.” 

Despite her love of her work, Kate still says the prospect of returning was daunting; “I had imposter syndrome; I was worried I’d have ‘baby brain’ and struggle to remember what I used to do – never mind catchup up on what I had missed. 

“It’s come back quickly though and that’s in large part to the culture we benefit from at OFR. My colleagues have been brilliant and helped me get up to speed with work and what had changed during that time I’d been away. Colleagues like Amir Karim who took time out to talk me through legislative changes; or Jeremy Thwaites for filling me in on all things external wall related, and Christine Leigh for her support with site visits – and Neil McPhail for popping up for coffee in my first few weeks back. 

“I have also found that clients – whether existing relationships or new – were really welcoming and accommodating in my first few weeks back. Asking about how my youngest was settling at nursery and how it was being back at work.”

Kate says that all this comes from an innate culture at OFR that allows working parents to shape their own working week, remaining motivated as they perform on both the parenting and career front. “I’ve been here for years, and have always been given autonomy over the shape of my working week. This is such a fantastic demonstration of the trust that OFR put in their people and is one of the reasons I am so happy here. 

“During my first week back, my husband was in America. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, my son hated nursery. I only got through that time because OFR allowed – and encouraged me – to shape that week accordingly; that meant irregular hours and a lot of understanding.  

“I would never have dreamed that OFR would be anything other than completely supportive of me in trying to juggle my way back into the world of work with two children. I’m so grateful to everyone for making my move back into work so seamless.”

The seasoned parent: Lucy Kirkup, HR director, OFR Consultants Bath

“My children are at school now but believe me that doesn’t mean the working day is any easier to manage!” 

Lucy’s been our HR director for 4.5 years, helping put policies in place to benefit all colleagues. “I understand how hard it is to juggle home and work, so working with our directors I’d always strived to create an environment in which everyone can work flexibly. It doesn’t matter if they’re looking after small children, or caring for other family members, we just knew that colleague wellbeing had to come first.

“Hybrid working was something we offered pre-pandemic and has remained in place since. We’re less about presenteeism and more about productivity, and we’ve trusted our colleagues to shape their own working days and weeks.

“As a parent that approach has been invaluable. When I started at OFR, my children were very small, and the flexibility is as valuable now as it was then. My days are different now and I need to give my all at work, while also knowing I can be at the school gates. 

“It’s so motivating and rewarding to know I can do that, and that I get to make those decisions.” 

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