A day in the life of a Communications and Engagement Lead at Home Office

Vivien Kelly, Communication and Engagement Lead, Returners Team, Government Equalities Office

I have recently started at the Government Equalities Office, as a returner on their returners programme, after a period of time out of the workforce.  Their returners programme allows me to go back to work and still care for my family.  The recruitment process was very structured, which helped me greatly, and at no point was I asked to explain or justify the time I had spent not in employment. Now in my new role, I get to help other people return to the workplace after taking time out for caring responsibilities.  

Vivien Kelly

6.00am: I wash and get ready for work and usually put some food in the oven on a timer, so the kids can have a hot meal to not like when they get in in the evening.

7.00am: The children venture down to the arctic kitchen for breakfast.  There's usually a fight, or one of those questions which requires a long, detailed and well thought-out answer and can't possibly be tackled at this time in the morning.  

7.30am: Time to leave, so it's a chaotic whirl of uniforms, toothbrushes, hair bobbles, shoes and school bags.

9.00am: I'm at my desk and switch my laptop on, muttering darkly about the sheer volume of emails which seems to be normal in the workplace now.  By the time I arrive at work, I feel like I've already accomplished quite a lot in just getting there.

The GEO is publishing guidance for employers on how to run returner programmes this week, along with a toolkit and two pieces of research, so it's been a busy week preparing for the announcements.  Returner programmes are vitally important for increasing diversity in the workplace and can go some way to improving the gender pay gap.  They also help returners by offering flexible working, so that they can balance their work and caring commitments.  When it comes to recruitment it's important that employers let returners showcase their skills and experience, as opposed to focussing on however long has been spent away from the workplace.

The GEO is also launching a fund for charities and social enterprises who help returners back into the workplace, so it will be an interesting time to see what kind of projects emerge.

3.30pm: This is the time when I worry about school pick-up and whether I'll be getting a phone call about a forgotten child.

5.30pm: I'm hopefully on the London underground, with what feels like everyone else in the world.

Things I struggle withWell, recently it's been mainly snow and schools having to close, but I think in general it will be a slight shift in working culture, away from talking to people to sending emails, which I think has a negative effect on productivity.  

Why I love itI love it because I care about returners.  The workplace is changing.  Diverse workforces are stronger workforces.  They make better decisions, are more productive and deliver better value for shareholders.  There is a large group of incredibly skilled and experienced people who are currently not working simply because they have caring commitments. This is a huge loss to the UK economy. On top of that, the GEO has been fantastic in offering flexible working, particularly with regard to offering unpaid leave for parts of the school holidays.

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