MAXIMUS: Parents taking a leading role in the resurgence of Out-of-Home.
Becoming a parent comes with its fair share of challenges, add a career on top of that and you’re confronted with a difficult balancing act. The pandemic exacerbated existing issues between parenting and the working day, which caused a sharp increase in parents leaving the workforce because of family commitments.
In a media job market where there are more jobs than candidates, the opportunity to get parents back to work has never been more important. Still a quarter of potential return to work mums are not on the job market (2021 Census) whereas for dad’s this is only a tenth of the potential work force. Consider the benefit this could have to the UK economy, which means it is more important than ever to support parents and keep them in the workforce.
The pandemic has had an enormous impact across the workplace, with many firms adopting hybrid working patterns as their new “normal”. This had a knock-on effect post-pandemic and benefitted people in many ways, especially women who, according to the Office For National Statistics (ONS), spent 77% more time on childcare than men during lockdown. In 2016, it was recorded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that 54,000 women a year lose their job simply for getting pregnant. This figure has almost doubled since then, and as we continue to recover from the pandemic and navigate the current cost-of-living crisis. The discrimination against pregnant women and mothers is even more prevalent today as they are often overlooked and under-valued within the workplace and society.
This could not be further from the beliefs at Maximus, an independent out-of-home media owner that recognised the wealth of valuable talent among its female employees. In 2016, they started flexible working hours for those who returned to work after maternity leave. Given that Maximus wrote an article over 5 years ago on ‘how bringing mums back to work helped fuel their success’, it is great to see how the rest of the industry has started to catch up. The Maximus team remains incredibly proud of this and, as Ged Weston, Maximus Managing Director reminds us, “there is still a load of talent out there, we just need to liberate it!”
Debbie Harrison, Head of Strategy at Maximus and mother of two, described the company as a “unicorn,” saying that it shouldn’t really exist. “Compared to other companies, Maximus offered the greatest amount of flexibility, where I could work part-time without having to be in the office, and travel into London on the days that suited me to attend client meetings. They are supportive if I ever need to take time away from work to pick up my children from school because they are sick or if I need to attend any events that they are taking part in, meaning that there is no stress on my end as I can make up the time in any way I see fit.” Harrison started as a business director and evolved into a strategy-focused role. “Coming into the office for the sake of it doesn’t generate revenue, and it hasn’t affected my ability to work towards a rewarding career.” She continues to explain how Maximus has helped her advance in her career while achieving the best work/life balance and reaping the rewards of being a hands-on mom. “You’re close to having it all at Maximus, and the flexibility they offer me is reciprocated in my work and performance at the company.”
Five years and a global pandemic later, hybrid working has become the mainstream workplace practice in most companies, with many people refusing to go back to pre-covid working patterns. “Maximus saw the benefit of flexible working and allowed it from the start, now the rest of the world has caught up”, says Liz Lloyd, New Business Director at Maximus and mother of three. “Not many places would be as flexible as Maximus, there is a mutual understanding and trust which I value with the company and as a result, I am able to give more in return because of the flexibility they offer me,” continues Lloyd, who had her third child during the pandemic and returned to her successful media career after maternity leave. She has been with the company for over 9 years.
In 2022, Maximus recorded its biggest year yet, and that’s with most of its sales and marketing employees juggling the demands of parenthood (which is a full-time job in itself) as well as their careers. It’s clear that operating with flexible working hours hasn’t affected the performance of work, which is reflected in Maximus’ market-beating growth over the last few years. This progressive approach is baked into the culture as the sales organisation’s mantra suggests ‘Think Free, Make a Difference’.
Laura Taylor, Business Development Director and Head of Marketing, joined Maximus in February 2020, initially working three days a week while caring for her daughter and twin boys at home. “I left my last job as it was too stressful working full-time in the office and looking after the kids. When Ged messaged me, offering a fully flexible role at Maximus, it was the solution I was looking for to get my career back on track.” When the COVID-19 lockdown hit the UK in March 2020, most firms decided to take advantage of the government’s job retention scheme and furlough their employees; Maximus, on the other hand, took the bold decision to continue operating. “Ged and Ashley’s unique choice to keep employees working throughout the pandemic, rather than furlough them, greatly benefited the company coming out of lockdown, and also helped me get through it psychologically as I was able to have adult chats during the week and juggle the extra responsibilities that I took on to accommodate childcare.”
The impact of the pandemic has led to some positive changes in the workplace, with many employers now implementing flexible working arrangements that they would have never considered before. According to figures from the ONS, in July 2022, the employment rate of working mothers hit the highest level in 20 years as employers were more willing to offer flexible working contracts. Maximus took a proactive approach and operated in a flexible manner prior to the pandemic, breaking away from the traditional 9-to-5 model, which in turn fuelled the success of the company and created a positive workplace culture. While employers are now seeing the benefits of flexible working, this is usually limited to the number of days in the office and does not allow their employees full autonomy in their work, which, speaking with the working mothers of Maximus, is a factor that is greatly valued in balancing the pressures of work and home life.
Annabell Seevaratnam, Development Director at Maximus, is currently pregnant with her third child and preparing to go on maternity leave. After having her second child, Seevaratnam took a three-and-a-half-year career break before returning to work when her youngest started full-time school. “I was like a coiled spring, ready to go, and I had a lot to prove.” Seevaratnam lives in South London and commutes to their Notting Hill office every day, leaving at 14:30 to pick up her children from school. “Maximus offered me the dream scenario, and in return, they gained an employee with 20 years’ worth of property experience, a highly valued set of skills to bring to the development team that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” she continues “The sky is the limit, you can work in the way you want to work and achieve the results you want to achieve.”
There’s no question that flexibility matters, especially among working mothers who often struggle with burnout due to not having a suitable work/life balance. Speaking with the working mothers of Maximus it is loud and clear that they can give more in return because of the flexibility they are offered which ultimately has helped fuel Maximus’ success and gained the loyalty of its employees.