- Priyanka Jain works in communications at Arup, a British design firm with flexible work options.
- She works longer Monday to Thursday so she can devote most of Fridays to building her side business.
- Before moving around her work schedule, her side hustle felt like an “afterthought.” No longer.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Priyanka Jain, an internal communications coordinator at British design firm Arup, which offers employees flexible work options through a model called Work Unbound. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I started my business during the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s called Love Your Company, and I create prompt cards, like icebreaker questions.
Arup had announced Work Unbound, and I was using this to go to the post office and get my packaging together for my business — things like that — without always having to time it with my lunch hour.
Knowing Arup was flexible with work in that way, I decided to pitch the idea of a different work schedule to my boss. I’d been working on my business around work — in the evenings, on the weekends. I felt like I had all this creativity, all these ideas for my business, but I couldn’t juggle it with my work schedule at the time. The business felt like an afterthought.
So I thought about having one day a week where I could work on my business but not sacrifice my work, and I asked if I could work longer hours — Monday to Thursday and then have Friday basically off.
My boss said yes, and we had a trial period first. I worked 8 am to 6 pm, Monday to Thursday — and 8 am to 10 am on Fridays. Because it was my first time working a modified schedule, I didn’t know how it would affect my team, but it’s been so well-received. I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s interesting how you just adjust. During the initial few days I might have thought, “Whoa, I’ve got to be on at 8am,” but overall it didn’t feel like anything was different other than I’m online a bit longer.
I’m still working this schedule today. I use the extra time to wrap up work and do things while it’s relatively quiet and not everyone is logged on. It’s also like a payoff; I want to work hard Mondays through Thursdays to have flexibility on Fridays.
I feel like pre-COVID this was unheard of; people would have to do everything over their lunch hour — it is just this like secrecy around everything can only be done at certain times. I feel like everyone to some degree post-Covid feels that we’re working in ways that we weren’t before.
On Fridays, I finish at 10. I’ll get myself in order and around 11, I’ll make a to-do list for Love Your Company. I’ll have coffees with people if I need to network or pitch. I feel like the day is mine; it’s my time to focus solely on my business. It feels like a productive day.
Having that one day has made such a difference for me.
Before, I wasn’t doing much for Love Your Company on a Friday. It didn’t make sense to pitch people on a Friday afternoon. I used to be a bit reactive. It was kind of like, “Okay, whenever I can get to it or whenever the time’s right.” Now I feel like I can be much more proactive and do so much more.
It would be really hard if I were to interview somewhere and they said it’s Monday to Friday, 9-to-5, always in the office. Because I’ve seen flexible work done well, I would think twice if there was a company that had a very rigid structure.