Q&A with Juliet Turnbull, founder of 2to3days.com

Juliet Turnbull is founder of 2to3days.com, a website matching mothers looking for part-time work with employers looking for flexible talent. She tells us why she’s driven to create a community inspiring change to more flexible working practices.

What drove you to set up 2to3days.com?

I believe in mothers having the opportunity to reach their full potential – both at work and at home. All around me I saw women who were frustrated because they weren’t able to work and be the mum they wanted to be.

In my previous job as a business coach, I also saw many companies who needed part-time talent but didn’t know where to find it, so 2to3days.com is all about connecting the two.

I wanted to create a site for professional mothers to find the job that best works for them and for employers to discover this wealth of untapped talent.

2to3days.com fulfils my love of connecting people. I’ve always been a pretty good matchmaker – I have even a wedding to my credit!

How do you manage to juggle setting up a business with raising your children?

The whole premise of 2to3days.com is for mothers to be the mum they want to be, while still developing their professional potential, and so of course our business model needs to show it can be done.

It hasn’t been easy launching a new business part-time but I am (just about) managing!

Clear boundaries are key, as is learning to grab small chunks of time to do very focused work. I am learning to let go and invest in a great team of people who are passionate about what they do.

In setting up 2to3days.com, what research did you do and what did you discover?

While developing the business model, I ran surveys and focus groups and spent a lot of time with mothers and companies to get general feedback. And what quickly became obvious is that so many women out there are desperate to work and also be respected and valued for doing the toughest job in the world – being a mum.

But what also became increasingly clear was that so many companies – large and small – had no idea how to find these women.

We discovered that women want to be able to talk openly with their employers about being a mother, and our site gives them the opportunity to do so. They have the permission to discuss the mechanics of how the flexible or part-time job will actually work. They know that if an employer is advertising on our site it is okay, for example, to talk about the logistics of school drop offs and pick-ups, or the need to juggle children’s doctors appointments.

Employers are also beginning to recognise that mothers are an un-tapped talent pool of dedicated and motivated women – you’re not going to find a mother nursing a hangover at work!

How would you describe your site?

We are providing a place for mothers who are looking for part-time work to match and connect with employers who have part-time jobs. But it is more than that – we are creating a community of like-minded employers, mothers and experts who all want to see a more flexible and open working culture in our society.

Why do you see flexible working as the future?

Flexible working is not just for the future – it is happening now. Speak to any employer and they know if they’re not doing it, they will be soon.

Presenteeism culture needs to be a thing of the past. Employees resent it and are no longer willing to play the game. Digital technology has revolutionised our lives to such an extent that the way we used to do business has changed forever.

Both men and women now want a different lifestyle from the previous generation, and that means flexibility, allowing for a more varied life and one where both parents can see their children grow up.

How does flexible working work?

Both parties need to be open and honest. There needs to be a clear line of communication so everyone can support each other.

There also needs to be a level of trust from employers that someone will just get on with the job, and this comes down to creating a structure and a process that involves regular meetings, open communication and check-ins where everybody can share.

Do you think some employers are afraid to offer flexible working?

There’s a certain amount of faith involved in offering flexibility, but I do believe if you put trust in people they will repay that trust.

I wonder if some employers are afraid to open the gates to flexible working as they fear everyone will want it. But I think we need to realise that we all have different needs and not everybody wants to work part-time, or full-time.

Employers need to challenge themselves to think in a more agile way and focus on the fact that a motivated work force is a more productive workforce – employees that are clock watching and full of resentment are not!

How is work culture changing?

We are moving away from a fear-based work culture that operates from the top down, to a more ‘letting go’ culture, which operates from the bottom up.

The need for persenteeism and rigidity is giving way to something new – to something more flexible, and more open.

And it’s not just mothers who want it, but a new generation who are demanding change. Perhaps they have seen their parents suffering burn out and are thinking ‘that’s not for me’. They want to work differently and they are beginning to ask for it.

How does it work financially?

At the moment companies are investing millions of pounds in women who then leave and can’t get back into the workplace if they want to spend any time with their children. We are losing millions every year, and that does not make sense on a purely economic level, so we need to start creating an infrastructure to encourage those women back to work.

Businesses that are open to listening to an employee’s needs and can make flexibility work are going to win out financially – they’re going to get committed and loyal workers for a part-time salary.

Does society need to do more to recognise the contribution mothers make?

On the one hand, society says: motherhood is an important job, and we want you to do it. But on the other hand, it’s also saying: we want mothers to go back to work.

However, we don’t make it easy for women to do both those jobs. If we want mothers to work and bring up their children, we need to provide the working situation and conditions for them to be able to do so.

At the moment, it feels as if we are having two very separate conversations without providing a solution. We need to begin looking at the bigger picture and join those two ideals together and that’s what 2to3days.com is all about.

It makes sense to begin having a constructive ‘back-to-work’ conversation that supports both businesses and mothers before a woman becomes pregnant. At the moment, legally an employer can’t do this and the laws are complicated. However, the new Shared Parental Leave law is an important step in the right direction.

We need to acknowledge the fact that women having babies is not going to go away!

What will you tell your own daughter about having children and managing her career?

Young women are taught to reach for the stars. They’ve had their minds turned on and they’re encouraged to reach their full professional potential – and yet this changes the moment they have children.

The kind of conversations I will have with my daughter and son are different from the ones my mother had with me. I will be teaching both my children to reach for whatever they want and to do a job that truly inspires them and makes them happy.

I will make it clear to both of them that having a fulfilling career and being the kind of parents they want to be does not have to be mutually exclusive!

You can find out more about 2-3days.com and register on their website